Rail passengers suffered fresh travel misery as tens of thousands of workers went out on strike again in the long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) and Unite walked out for 24 hours on Saturday, affecting Network Rail and a number of train companies across the country.
Only about half of the UK’s rail network were open, with trains only running between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
Read more: Who is going on strike in August and for how long?
Major operators, including those that run cross-country services, such as London North East Railway and Avanti West Coast, were affected.
Some areas were expected to have no services all day.
It rounds off three days of disruption on the UK’s railways, with strikes also taking place on Thursday, and walkouts happening on the London tube network yesterday.
A walkout on a large part of the London bus network also continued into its second day on Saturday.
Sunday morning train services will also be affected by the knock-on effect of tosay’s action.
Unions have been calling for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to return to the negotiating table to make improved offers on pay, and offer guarantees that no jobs will be lost, amid reports of proposed modernisation cuts throughout the network.
Mr Shapps has also been accused by the unions of supporting a practice known as fire and re-hire, which would see rail operators continue to let staff go, before taking them back on contracts with lower conditions than before, unless strike action is called off.
In turn, the transport secretary has called for union bosses to put the pay deals offered to their members, or get out of the way.
He tweeted: “I’ve written to [RMT General Secretary] Mick Lynch to urge him to put Network Rail’s fair 8% pay rise offer to his members.
“RMT is prolonging these unnecessary strikes which are a kick in the teeth to workers who cannot get to their own jobs.”
Mr Lynch told Sky News: “We’ll keep going. Our members are very committed to the dispute. We’ll keep going until we get an agreement that our members support and then they’ll get to vote on what’s on offer once we get a reasonable package.
“We are committed to this dispute, we’ve got no choice because we’re under attack from the companies and from the government.”
He added: “What you have with a trade union is the ability to bargain with your employer. If you’re not bargaining in this society you’re begging for a favour, and when you’re begging you get nothing.”
Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, added: “We very much hope that common sense will now prevail, and the Department for Transport train operators will make a revised offer, as we have heard nothing from them since their derisory and insulting 2% pay offer with more strings attached than a violin quartet many weeks ago.
“If they do, we will engage in further discussions with them at once. But for this to happen, Grant Shapps must either come to the table or give train operators the mandate to negotiate and break this impasse.
“We are continuing to engage with Network Rail and talks are ongoing. We hope the gap between us can soon be closed. But following more comments from the transport secretary this morning, it seems to us that Grant Shapps is willing to talk to everyone apart from our reps.
“Make no mistake, unless a negotiated settlement which is acceptable to our members is reached, this dispute will continue for as long as it takes.”
Mr Shapps said: “It’s clear, from their co-ordinated approach, that the unions are hell-bent on causing as much misery as possible to the very same taxpayers who stumped up £600 per household to ensure not a single rail worker lost their job during the pandemic.
“Sadly, union chiefs have short memories and will be repaying this act of good faith by ruining millions of hard-working people’s summer plans.”