Commuters face “significant” disruption today as over a month of staggered national rail strikes begin amid another day of freezing weather. Two 48-hour strikes at Network Rail and across 14 train companies kick off this morning (Tuesday, December 13) after the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) rejected a further pay offer.
The strikes will continue until Saturday, followed by further action from Christmas Eve until December 27 and two more 48-hour strikes at the beginning of January. Tens of thousands of railway staff are expected to walk out during this time, with Network Rail bosses accusing the RMT of “playing fast and loose with peoples’ Christmas plans”.
But it’s not just the strikes threatening to scupper travel. The Met Office has warned it will be another freezing morning for many across the UK this morning, with snow covering most parts of the country.
There are currently yellow warnings for ice and snow in place from Tuesday until Thursday for north-east England and northern Scotland, along with a “severe” ice for much of the South East, including Brighton and London until 11am this morning.
Staff from National Highways, which operates and maintains roads in England, are also set to take part in a series of strikes from December 16 to January 7. With many no doubt opting to travel by car due to the train strikes, the AA warned people to keep an eye on the weather.
It said: “Rain followed by freezing temperatures can turn the road into an ice rink. Check your route for accidents and closures before you leave and, if possible, favour roads which have been gritted.”
Will trains still be running on strike days?
Some trains will run from 7.30am to 6.30pm during the strikes, although many parts of the country will have no services at all - including most of Scotland and Wales. Significantly reduced services means that trains will be even more crowded than usual at this time of year and are likely to start later and finish earlier.
It is likely that passengers planning to travel at the peak time of Christmas Eve will be urged to complete their journeys by the time the next round of strikes begin at 6pm.
Why is the RMT striking?
The RMT said 63.6% voted to reject Network Rail’s pay offer of a 5% rise on an 83% turnout. The 5% pay increase would have been backdated to January with another 4% at the start of 2023 and a guarantee of no compulsory job losses until 2025.
RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: "This is a huge rejection of Network Rail’s substandard offer and shows that our members are determined to take further strike action in pursuit of a negotiated settlement. The government is refusing to lift a finger to prevent these strikes and it is clear they want to make effective strike action illegal in Britain.
"We will resist that and our members, along with the entire trade union movement will continue their campaign for a square deal for workers, decent pay increases and good working conditions."
The rail strikes come at a time of planned industrial action across a myriad of UK sectors, including healthcare. Nurses and paramedics are planning to stage a walk out this winter, along with postal workers, firefighters, driving instructors, bus operators, airport baggage handlers and Border Force agents.