Train strikes: transport secretary claims biggest rail walkout in 30 years is ‘a stunt’ – live updates | Rail transport


Transport secretary calls strikes ‘a stunt’

Speaking on Sky News this morning, transport secretary Grant Shapps said government is not going to get involved as it would “make matters worse”, and added that employers are the ones with the mandate and technical details to negotiate.

Shapps, while mentioning other junior doctor, firefighter and postal workers disputes that were resolved without government involvement, said:

This is a stunt, which I’m afraid you’re falling for, by the unions and the Labour party — the Labour party who wont even condemn these strikes today, and the unions who only last month were saying they would not negotiate with the government, and have suddenly decided, running out of things to say, that they’ll suddenly call on ministers to talk to them and walk in the room with them directly. It wouldn’t resolve anything in fact it would make matters worse and thats why i’m not in the room.

Earlier on the program Shapps said it’s “time to get this strike settled” and called on the unions to come back to the negotiating table.

Helen Pidd

Helen Pidd

Assembling their picket line outside Manchester Piccadilly station at 6am on Tuesday, the striking rail workers wondered if they would receive a hostile reaction from those inconvenienced. But instead of abuse, they received toots from passing buses and taxis, while cyclists rang their bells.

“Passengers who use our railways day in, day out support us. They know that most of us are not on the inflated wages you see thrown about by rightwing commentators and newspapers,” said Clayton Clive, RMT branch secretary for Manchester. About 950 of his 1,500 members had downed tools for the day, a turnout of 63%, he said.

Clayton Clive, branch secretary of RMT Manchester South, pictured by a picket at the bottom of Station Approach.
Clayton Clive, branch secretary of RMT Manchester South, pictured by a picket at the bottom of Station Approach. Photograph: Joel Goodman/The Guardian

Inside the normally chaotic station, calm reigned. The handful of passengers who had arrived without getting the memo were sanguine – even the couple who had been waiting four and a half hours for a train to Wolverhampton.

Owen Fones and his girlfriend had been on holiday in Gran Canaria; their plane landed in the middle of the night and the couple found themselves stranded. They caught a taxi to Piccadilly and used the station wifi to catch up on Love Island on their ipad. “I haven’t got a clue what the strike is all about but I think it’s a load of rubbish,” said Fones.

A man blocked a bus in east London demanding the driver let him on after commuters queued at Blackhorse Road Station early this morning.

Man blocks bus in east London as travel frustration builds amid rail strike – video

Anas Sarwar, Diane Abbott and Angela Rayner are the latest Labour leaders to join picket lines in solidarity with RMT union members, despite Keir Starmer’s office telling shadow cabinet members that to “show leadership” frontbenchers “should not be on picket lines”.

Labour deputy leader and MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, Angela Rayner, wrote on Twitter:

Workers have been left with no choice. No one takes strike action lightly. I will always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work. The PM needs to do his own job. His Government caused this. Now they must solve it.

Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, wrote: “(But don’t tell Keir Starmer)” above a photograph of her with striking workers.

And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who sits in the Scottish Parliament wrote: “This is a crisis entirely of the Government’s making.”

Solidarity with those on the picket lines.

This is a crisis entirely of the Government’s making.

The workers don’t want strikes. The unions don’t want strikes. The public don’t want strikes.

They demand better. pic.twitter.com/PMZSfIyTwD

— Anas Sarwar (@AnasSarwar) June 21, 2022

Earlier, we wrote of other MPs expressing their solidarity on Twitter.

Earlier, I asked readers to get in touch to share their commuting and travel experiences as the rail strikes that got under way this morning are the biggest in the UK for more than 30 years.

Charles Linehan wrote:

On a rare Brighton to London train with my bike on board. Have 20 undergraduate students to teach. Staying In North London all week at my brother’s with an 18 mile round trip to South East London on my bike until Friday. No one else can teach what I’m doing.

Another reader, Nick Wereszczynski, wrote:

I’m an NHS worker travelling across Southwark this morning. A journey that normally would take me 20 minutes via tube, took over an hour on two busses. And while half asleep, I stand proudly with everyone striking today – while we might be mildly inconvenienced for a couple of days this week, I want everyone to remember that the workers striking today are doing so because what they’re struggling with is a daily occurrence that has spanned years. I only wish that NHS workers could do the same.

Paul Rowlston wrote:

I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who commute downstairs to a home office. However, On Sunday I will be making the round trip from North Yorkshire to London and back (10 hours, give or take) to bring my daughter home for a week before she starts a new job. Frankly, I’m more than happy to do it and have nothing but support for the striking rail workers. Entitled and privileged millionaires and ‘professional politicians’ (who are able to claim yearly expenses worth more than a minimum wage) really do need to stop telling the hardest working and lowest paid people in the country that they are the ones whose belt needs tightening. Strike, strike again, keep striking – working people shouldn’t be begging for scraps while the criminal in Number 10 begs for new wallpaper for his grace and favour.

We want to hear of your travel experiences, and what alternative arrangements you have made. Want to get in touch?

Email me at geneva.abdul@theguardian.com or find me on Twitter @GenevaAbdul

What Tube lines are operating?

The latest travel updates from Transport for London (TfL) show eight underground lines are completely suspended. These are: Bakerloo, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, Victoria, and Waterloo & City.

TfL shows good service for the DLR and trams. However, a number of lines are running on limited service and with severe delays. These include:

  • Central: Service operating between White City and West Ruislip / Ealing Broadway, approximately every 20 minutes and between Liverpool Street and Epping / Hainault, approximately every 10 minutes. Service operating between Woodford and Hainault (via Grange Hill) approximately every 20 minutes
  • District: Service operating between West Ham and Upminster approximately every 15 minutes.
  • Elizabeth: A reduced service is operating between Paddington and Reading / Heathrow Airport and between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.
  • Overground: No service between Romford and Upminster. Severe delays between Highbury & Islington and Clapham Junction / New Cross / Crystal Palace / West Croydon due to strike action.
  • Northern: Service operating between East Finchley and High Barnet / Mill Hill East and between Golders Green and Edgware, approximately every 8 minutes.

Here’s how commuters and travellers are responding to rail strikes.

A healthcare support worker in north London who was an hour and a half late for work amid the travel disruption has said NHS staff like him “aren’t able to strike” like those from rail companies, reports PA news.

David Raposo Buzon, 34, said:

I feel OK with people doing strikes, but at the same time I feel angry when I think that NHS workers are not able to strike even if our conditions at work are really bad.

Very limited trains at Waterloo station.
Very limited trains at Waterloo station. Photograph: Future Publishing/Getty Images

Susan Millson, 69, from Clapham, southwest London, told PA news the rail strikes are “outrageous” and “awful” as she was forced to cancel a her trip to East Grinstead to see her sister for the day.

Millson, arrived at Clapham junction station with the hope her train to East Grinstead might be running, but discovered the services has been impacted by the strikes. Speaking to PA news about her disruption, she said:

I just think it’s outrageous that there is no give and take between the unions and the Government. No one is giving any leeway at the moment, it’s awful, it’s just awful. It’s a nice day as well. No one can afford to strike at the moment the way the country is, it’s awful and now we’ve got this.

A general view of an empty platform at Clapham Junction station.
A general view of an empty platform at Clapham Junction station. Photograph: Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA

We want to hear of your travel experiences, and what alternative arrangements you have made. Want to get in touch?

Email me at geneva.abdul@theguardian.com or find me on Twitter @GenevaAbdul

Summary

Good morning to those joining our live coverage of the train strikes. Here’s a summary of what’s happened so far:

  • Johnson warned commuters to be prepared to ‘stay the course’. At a meeting of the cabinet, Johnson also said reforms were needed on the railways, otherwise it would result in the “disaster” of declining rail use.
  • RMT called Johnson’s agency staff plans ‘a gimmick’ in response to Boris Johnson’s plans to break the industrial action by allowing firms to bring in agency staff, announced Monday. Unions have decried the move as unworkable, unsafe and potentially breaking international law.
  • Labour MPs have joined picket lines in solidarity with RMT union members, despite Keir Starmer’s office telling shadow cabinet members that frontbenchers “should not be on picket lines”. MPs include Ian Lavery, Beth Winter, and Navendu Mishra, among others.
  • Rail strikes are going to cost the hospitality industry’s restaurants, pubs and other businesses, £500m in revenue. The CEO of UKHospitality said the industry, already battered by the Coronavirus pandemic, “cannot withstand anymore of these severe economic shocks.”
  • The National Rail Enquires website stopped working around 8am, disrupting passengers attempting to use the service to find out what trains are running during the rail strike.
  • Transport secretary Grant Shapps called the strikes “a stunt”, and said government is not going to get involved as it would “make matters worse”.

Follow our politics blog with my colleague Andrew Sparrow, for the latest updates from Westminster and beyond as the biggest strike on the railways since 1989 unfolds.

The head of Network Rail has denied that the government leaned on it to cap a pay increase for its workers, as it failed to prevent the biggest train strikes in 30 years.

Attempts to avert the strikes through talks failed on Monday evening and the RMT accused the government of preventing a deal.

The union believes the government put pressure on Network Rail not to exceed a pay increase of 3% because of the precedent this might set and the risk of inflation.

Read more from my colleague Emily Dugan here:

Johnson warns commuters to be prepared to ‘stay the course’

At a meeting of the cabinet, Johnson said reforms were needed on the railways, PA reports. Johnson added:

We need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it. We need, I’m afraid, everybody, and I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course. To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.

Without the modernisation programme, the industry and companies would face further financial pressure, Johnson said, and would have to raise the price of tickets further as a result, according to PA. That would result in the “disaster” of declining rail use.

Here’s how commuters and travellers are responding to rail strikes.

Boarding a replacement bus service outside Birmingham New Street, one man told PA news “half of what I said wouldn’t be fit to print in a newspaper”. Another man passing a nearby picket line said to striking workers: “Well done, everyone. Solidarity. Well done.”

A picket line is seen outside Birmingham New Street station.
A picket line is seen outside Birmingham New Street station. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Electrical engineer Harry Charles told PA news his normal 10-minute journey to work by train to London Bridge took 90 minutes.

The 30-year-old, from Lewisham said: “Obviously I had to wake up early and left my house at 6am. I am with the employees who are striking because their money is not going up and the cost of everything is rising.”

An empty stairway leading to London Bridge underground station in London.
An empty stairway leading to London Bridge underground station in London. Photograph: Tony Hicks/AP

Rene Mance, 47, said the travel chaos had disrupted her journey to Glastonbury festival where she was starting a new job, PA news reports.

“I can’t pretend it hasn’t been stressful. It has. I didn’t really sleep very well because I was worried about it,” she said. Travelling with heavy luggage she felt would cause difficulty on the bus, Mance said she was forced to pay almost £40 for a cab to the station.

Speaking to PA news at Paddington station, she said:

For many people, say a mother with kids or someone disabled, it’s absolute chaos. My situation whatever it is, I would have found a way, but you know, some people are not like me. They don’t have money to get in the cab, and it was a total luxury for me, but it worked.





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