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Rail dispute could be prolonged ‘indefinitely’, warns RMT chief

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, on the picket line outside London Euston train station (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, on the picket line outside London Euston train station (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A union leader has warned the rail dispute could be prolonged “indefinitely” as the latest strike by thousands of workers caused travel misery for passengers.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), called on the Government to end its stance of refusing to get involved in talks over pay, jobs and conditions.

He joined a picket line outside Euston station in London as only around one in five trains were running across the country because of the walkout by members of the RMT and TSSA unions.

Mr Lynch has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, saying: “Your government has made the decision to use taxpayers’ money to bail out private train companies from being liable for revenue lost because of industrial action on the condition the same companies comply with government instructions to hold down pay, cut thousands of safety critical rail jobs, introduce driver only trains and close ticket offices across the network.”

Mr Lynch said the union had calculated that, including the previous and forthcoming industrial action, more than £120 million of taxpayers’ money had been used to “bail out” private train companies to date.

A quiet platform at London Euston train station
A quiet platform at London Euston train station (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “Using taxpayers’ money to satisfy the anti-union agenda of the Tory party and seek to break the trade unions is shameful and means the dispute will be prolonged indefinitely as the train companies don’t lose a penny as a result of the industrial action and therefore have no incentive to settle the disputes.

“Instead of waging an ideological war against rail workers, millions of voters would rather that the Government allow for a fair negotiated settlement.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Yet again, for the sixth time since June, union leaders are opting to inflict misery and disrupt the day-to-day lives of millions instead of working with industry to agree a deal that will bring our railways into the 21st century.

“Today, thousands of A-level students across the country, many of whom have spent the majority of their college years studying at home due to the pandemic, are now being denied the chance to celebrate their hard work and dedication face to face with peers and teachers.

A quiet platform at London Euston train station
Only around one in five trains are running across the country (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“It’s clear strikes are not the powerful tool they once were and union chiefs are no longer able to bring the country to a standstill as, unlike them, the world has changed and people simply work from home.

“All these strikes are doing is hurting those people the unions claim to represent, many of whom will again be out of pocket and forced to miss a day’s work.

“We urge union bosses to do the right thing by their members and let them have their say on Network Rail’s very fair deal, which will deliver the reforms our rail system urgently needs.

“It’s time to get off the picket lines and back around the negotiating table – the future of our railway depends on it.”

Ru Roberts of sat-nav firm Waze said: “Due to the RMT strikes the UK’s motorways have been hit by significant disruption, specifically surrounding main cities such as London, Manchester, and Birmingham.

“We’re currently seeing heavy traffic throughout major thoroughfares such as the M42, with reported speeds of 12mph, as well as surrounding main Underground stations including Edgware and Brixton, with speeds as low as 3mph.

“Amid summer holiday traffic, we advise drivers, especially those travelling to and from Premier League fixtures, to prepare for slower journeys, check all routing options before setting off and take regular breaks on long journeys.”