Rail workers were said to be “standing firm” in the latest wave of strikes over the role of guards as the Government was accused of being more interested in protecting the profits of train operators regardless of the impact on services and safety.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway (SWR), Arriva Rail North (Northern), Merseyrail and Greater Anglia walked out for 24 hours following action on Monday, with another stoppage due on Friday.
Picket lines were mounted outside railway stations affected by the strike, and passengers faced delays, cancellations and replacement buses in some parts of the country.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members are standing firm this morning in the separate disputes across the country in defence of rail safety and the role of the guard.
“This week, in the midst of the Tory reshuffle shambles, we called on Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to organise summit talks to move these disputes forwards. We have have had no response.
“Mr Grayling’s silence speaks volumes and, with today’s damning NAO report into the Southern Rail fiasco, it is becoming clearer by the minute that all the Tory Government are interested in is protecting the fat profits of the greedy private rail companies regardless of the impact on services and safety.
“The strikes today are about putting public safety before private profit. If RMT can cut deals in Wales and Scotland that guarantee a guard on the trains and which underpin public safety, security and access on our railways, there is no reason we can’t reach the same agreements in England.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said earlier this week: “This is a dispute between a private company and the RMT. However, the Transport Secretary recognises the disruption caused to passengers and has met with union leaders on several occasions, including as recently as December, to help bring an end to the strikes.
“He offered guarantees of employment to members who currently fulfil the role of the second person on the train beyond the length of the franchises.
“Nobody is losing their job as a result of driver-controlled operation trains – employees have been guaranteed jobs and salaries for several years.”
Northern said it would run around 1,350 services on strike days, more than half its normal timetable, mostly between 7am and 7pm.
SWR plans to run more than 70% of its normal weekday service of 1,700 trains, although there will be rail replacement buses, arrangements to have tickets accepted on other train companies and most routes will see a reduced service.
Greater Anglia plans to run a normal service, with no alterations.
Merseyrail will run a reduced service, mostly between 7am and 7pm, with a break during the middle of the day.