‘Checking to see if I can get to work and even the websites are on strike’: Chiltern Railways, TfL AND National Rail sites CRASH as commuters try to plan journeys
- Websites of National Rail, TfL and Chiltern Railways have all crashed today
- Passengers are currently being shown the message: ‘500 Internal Server Error’
- Unions barons have forced towns and cities into ‘another lockdown’
- Britain’s railways have come to a grinding halt after last-ditch talks failed
- ***Follow MailOnline’s live coverage of the strikes HERE***
The websites of National Rail, TfL and Chiltern Railways have all crashed today as desperate commuters try to get to the office on the first day of Mick Lynch’s crippling rail strikes.
Passengers attempting to use all three websites to find out what trains are running during the rail strike are currently being shown a message stating: ‘500 Internal Server Error’.
The cause of the problem is unclear, but it could be due to a surge in demand. Only a fifth of trains are running on Tuesday and half of lines are closed as around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out.
Services are generally restricted to main lines, but even those are only open between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
Union barons have forced towns and cities across Britain into ‘another lockdown’, costing hospitality firms alone over £1billion this week as Britain’s railways come to a grinding halt today after last-ditch talks to avert the biggest strikes for 30 years failed.
Usually busy stations such as London Euston are nearly deserted except for picket lines by union members early today, with the start of services delayed until 7.30am. Only a fifth of trains are running, half of lines are closed, and the network will be shut down at 6.30pm.
London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines today due to a walk out by workers.
The websites of National Rail, TfL and Chiltern Railways have all crashed today
Camden Town Tube station is closed this morning as thousands of rail workers strike
Commuters vented that ‘even the websites are on strike’ on Twitter this morning
Passengers at a deserted Euston station in London this morning
Commuters queueing for buses outside Victoria Station in London amid today’s strikes
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on a picket line outside Euston station in London today
Union members from National Rail and 13 different operators have voted to carry out strike action this month.
Those operators are:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Greater Anglia
- South Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Trains (including London Northwestern Railway)
At Birmingham New Street station, a few would-be passengers and commuters were trying to work out their travel plans, gazing at timetables on their phones and the departures board on the main concourse.
Last-ditch talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
The militant RMT union was accused of ‘punishing millions of innocent people’ by pressing ahead with the walkouts despite a pay increase offer for workers of at least 3 per cent – the same given last year to NHS staff who battled the Covid-19 crisis.
The rail industry itself will also take a £150million hit at a time when pre-pandemic passenger numbers are yet to return.
There had been growing hope of a breakthrough in the row over jobs and pay yesterday after sources close to the negotiations said there was ‘some movement’ from the RMT and ‘small steps of progress’ were being made.
But it was dashed after the union’s boss, Lynch, confirmed walkouts today, on Thursday and Saturday will go ahead during a press conference outside the RMT’s headquarters in London yesterday.
Network Rail officially offered the RMT a two per cent pay rise with ‘no strings attached’ and a further one per cent later in the year if certain efficiency targets were met.
It is understood the rise could have been as much as 5% if the union was willing to accept further modernisation of working practices, such as technology being used more to detect potential faults on the network.
Intense negotiations continued last night, with a source suggesting a deal to avert Thursday’s and Saturday’s walkouts was still possible.
They said: ‘It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. They wouldn’t be coming back, especially at this 11th hour, if we weren’t getting closer, and we are getting closer – it’s just not enough on either side yet to have a good enough package to avert the strikes at this point.’
The RMT is understood to want a pay increase of at least 7 per cent. It also wants a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.
Last night Mr Lynch did not rule out strikes going on for longer than the infamous Southern rail dispute, which lasted 18 months. It raises the prospect of similar walkouts going on for months.
He said: ‘It will go on until somebody offers us a deal that we can accept and we can put to our members and they vote for it in a referendum.’
Commuters queue at a bus stop outside King’s Cross in London this morning
Passengers wait for the doors to open at 7am at Birmingham New Street station today
A deserted Birmingham New Street station this morning amid Mick Lynch’s mass strikes
Merseyrail trains lined up on the track at Kirkdale Depot this morning
A very quiet Bristol Temple Meads train station this amid Mick Lynch’s mass strikes
Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich today
Who else is set to join the summer strike contagion?
Strikes could spread across the economy in the coming months. These are the areas affected – and those which could be hit – and the unions behind the ballots.
Strikes by the RMT across three days this week will close half of the country’s rail network and reduce service to a fifth of normal levels.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is also balloting thousands of staff at Network Rail and several train companies, with the possibility of strikes as soon as July.
The train drivers’ union Aslef is set to strike at Greater Anglia and the Croydon Tramlink in the coming weeks.
Unite is also balloting about 500 British Airways check-in staff at Heathrow over a refusal to reverse a 10 per cent pandemic pay cut. If workers vote in favour, strikes are likely in July – potentially ruining some summer holidays.
Teachers’ union NAS/UWT will ballot members over action unless the Government backs demands for a 12 per cent pay rise. A pay award for 2022/23 is due in November.
The National Education Union has said it will ballot its 460,000 members if a pay rise in line with inflation is not offered by the Government.
Unison, which represents NHS staff, has said strikes are possible unless the annual pay offer for them is not close to the rate of inflation. The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has also said it will prepare for a ballot unless junior doctors are given a 22 per cent ‘restorative’ pay rise.
The Royal College of Nursing has also demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.
The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents civil service workers, will hold a ballot in September over pay, pensions and redundancies.
The Unison, GMB and Unite unions have said local government staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive a pay increase of at least £2,000 each. Workers include rubbish collectors, library staff, teaching assistants and care workers.
Unite said it will support ‘any action’ by workers to achieve a pay rise.
Barristers have voted to go on strike in a row over legal aid funding.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said several days of court walkouts will begin from next week.
The promised industrial action, announced on Monday following a ballot of members, comes at a time of significant backlogs across the court system.
They are the latest profession to go on strike, ahead of planned action by rail workers later this week, and reports of unrest among teaching staff and NHS employees.
The Communication Workers Union will ballot Royal Mail workers in a dispute over a pay rise offer of 2 per cent.
The union has also sent ballot papers to BT workers including engineers, contact centre staff and retail employees over pay. It could result in the first strike at the company since it was privatised in the mid-1980s.
For some commuters hit by rising fuel costs and rail strikes, it is the glimmer of a silver lining.
This month traffic wardens will start a seven-day strike in protest at pay cuts and ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.
The walkout in Wiltshire means penalty charge notices will not be issued and charges in council car parks will not be enforced, costing £30,000 in revenue.
The action by the GMB from June 30 to July 6 follows two days of strikes in the county in May.
The union is opposing a pay cut of 10 per cent, or £2,000 a year, for traffic wardens, and said members were ‘at the end of their tether’.
Wiltshire Council is seeking to save £800,000 annually by ending contractual unsocial hours payments for almost 350 staff, including social workers and care workers.
He dodged the question of whether it was fair for taxpayers to stump up the extra cash to fund the union’s pay demands.
He added: ‘Faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts to jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, the RMT has no choice but to defend our members industrially to stop this race to the bottom.
‘The strikes on Network Rail, the train operators and London Underground will go ahead, and we again call on our members to stand firm, support the action, mount the pickets and demonstrate their willingness to fight for workplace justice.’
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hit back, saying: ‘By carrying out this action, the RMT is punishing millions of innocent people, instead of calmly discussing the sensible and necessary reforms we need to make in order to protect our rail network.’
He added: ‘We are now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country.
‘Many people who do not get paid if they can’t get to work face losing money at a time they simply can’t afford to. Children sitting exams will face the extra distraction of changing their travel plans.
‘And vulnerable people trying to attend long-awaited hospital appointments may have no choice but to cancel.’
Ministers want the industry to make around £2billion in savings after bailing out the industry to the tune of £16billion during the pandemic – the equivalent of £600 per household.
They also point out that the median salary for rail workers is already £44,000, above the national average.
Business chiefs said the strikes ‘could not come at a worse time’ for firms hoping for a summer bounce following the damage caused by Covid.
Ros Morgan, chief executive of the Heart of London Business Alliance, which represents over 600 businesses in the capital’s West End, said: ‘The rail and Tube strikes will impose another lockdown on the West End at a time when central London’s economy needs all the support it can get.’
Trade body UKHospitality warned the cost to the industry could top £1billion this week alone as pubs, bars, restaurants are hit along with other leisure and tourist activities such as theatres.
Its boss, Kate Nicholls, said: ‘For a devastated hospitality industry beginning its tentative post-pandemic recovery, the planned strike action couldn’t come at a worse time, and might deliver a fatal financial blow to those businesses already struggling to survive.’
The boss of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, said the strikes pose a ‘serious threat’ to the industry and could stop staff getting to work and customers being able to get to venues.
Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, Sacha Lord, said the strikes will have a ‘drastic impact’ on businesses relying on footfall from local workplaces.
Unions reacted with fury to reports Labour has banned its frontbenchers from picket lines, in a memo leaked to Politics Home.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, told the PA news agency: ‘The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers, by words and by actions.’
Pupils and parents are being urged to make an alternative plan for getting to school for A-level and GCSE exams.
Motorists were warned to expect a surge in traffic as train passengers switch to road transport.
The AA predicted that the worst affected roads are likely to be main motorway arteries, as well as rural and suburban areas.
About half of Great Western Railway’s trains due to serve Castle Cary in Somerset, carrying revellers to the Glastonbury Festival between Wednesday and Friday, are cancelled.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to say ahead of a Cabinet meeting that unions are ‘harming the very people they claim to be helping’.
He is set to accuse unions of ‘driving away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers’, while also hitting businesses across the country.
He will say: ‘Too high demands on pay will also make it incredibly difficult to bring to an end the current challenges facing families around the world with rising costs of living.
‘Now is the time to come to a sensible compromise for the good of the British people and the rail workforce.’
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said Network Rail had offered a 2% pay rise with the possibility of a further 1% later dependent on efficiency savings.
He told BBC’s Newsnight that Network Rail had ‘escalated’ the dispute during Monday’s talks, saying: ‘They have issued me a letter saying that there are going to be redundancies starting from July 1.
‘So rather than trying to come to an agreement in this dispute, they’ve escalated it by giving us formal notice of redundancy amongst our Network Rail members.’
He warned the dispute could continue for months, adding: ‘It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.
‘The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.
‘At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.’
The Department for Transport disputed Mr Lynch’s clams, adding that it has cost taxpayers about £600 per household to keep the railway running during the coronavirus pandemic.
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