Train operators are warning that their services will be badly disrupted over the next five days. There will be two 48-hour RMT strikes, the first of which started this morning. The second will be on Friday and Saturday, while ASLEF drivers will strike on the intervening Thursday.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has claimed that the government has been on ‘radio silence’ since before Christmas. He said: ‘The executives who run the industry day on day are in despair at what the government is making them say in these talks.’
The Department for Transport has denied accusations of silence, saying the rail minister had remained ‘in regular contact with all parties and the government had taken significant steps to enable a deal.’
It added: ‘Unions should step back from this strike action so we can start 2023 by ending this damaging dispute.’
The Rail Delivery Group has repeated that reforms to working arrangements are an essential part of any settlement. These may include the widespread closure of ticket offices and more driver-only trains.
Meanwhile, the West Coast Main Line has been blocked by flood damage at Carstairs, after heavy rain eroded both sides of an embankment on Friday. Network Rail said its engineers are ‘working around the clock to remove landslip material affecting a 40m long section of the line before beginning to reinforce the area with over 200 tonnes of new stone’.
The track itself will have to relaid and signalling circuits checked before train services can return north of Carlisle, and Network Rail has estimated that repairs will take until Friday this week.