Mass rail strike misery gets underway with walkouts across five networks including South Western Railway, Southern and Greater Anglia

 
Rebecca Smith
The strikes are over the role of the guard and driver-only operation
The strikes are over the role of the guard and driver-only operation (Source: Getty)

Mass UK rail strikes kick off today across five train companies, as the row over the role of the guard and so-called driver-only operation, continues to spread.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said today action by members remained "solid" across Southern rail, Greater Anglia, Northern, Merseyrail, and South Western Railway, which was affected by the walkouts for the first time.

The RMT's general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT members stand solid, united and determined again this morning in the latest phase of strike action in a raft of separate disputes which are about putting safety, security and access to transport services before the profiteering of these rip-off private rail companies."

Read more: Businesses warn of "significant damage" to economy from mass rail strikes

He added that "political and public support is flooding in" for the strikes, after the dispute deepened yesterday with transport secretary Chris Grayling saying the action "can't be about safety", calling the strikes political.

Writing in the Evening Standard yesterday, Grayling said he wished the union would join work to improve the railway, "instead of calling political strikes over things that aren't actually happening".

The walkouts will carry on for 48 hours across Southern, South Western and Greater Anglia, with a 24-hour strike planned today on Merseyrail and Northern.

Train companies said they will try to run as many services as possible, but some routes into London will face disruption, and passengers have been warned to check before they travel.

Up to 40 per cent of trains are to be cancelled on South Western, while trains on Northern and Merseyrail will wind down at7pm. Greater Anglia plans to run a full service as most trains do not have guards, while Southern said for the most part it will be "business as usual", with some alterations planned.

Business groups today warned that the action will not only cause an economic hit, but also do damage to London's reputation as it tries to signal it remains open for business.

David Leam, infrastructure director at business group London First, said the two days of disruption this week will likely cost London "tens of millions" though it is difficult to ascertain to what extent businesses will be affected.

"We're desperately trying to promote ourselves as open to business," Leam said. Strikes making it hard to get around will be a "very visible" sign that things are not working as they should.

Read more: What you need to know about this week's mass rail strikes

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