Rail passengers face fresh travel misery on Saturday because of a strike by thousands of workers in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
The walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will badly disrupt services, with some parts of the country having no trains all day.
Services are also being disrupted because of a ban on overtime by train drivers in the Aslef union.
The deadlocked dispute is being made worse by a bitter row over controversial plans to close most railway ticket offices.
Passenger groups have joined unions in condemning the move, warning it will have a serious impact on elderly and disabled travellers.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said staff will be moved from behind screens and on to station concourses, but unions believe more than 2,000 jobs will be axed.
The RDG said that since the first RMT strike in June 2022, industrial action had cost the sector around £620 million.
A statement said: “This has stalled its post-pandemic recovery and threatens its long-term sustainability, pushing the industry in to a spiral decline and risking consequences like cuts to services to make up the shortfall. Revenue levels are still 30% below pre-pandemic levels.
“The strikes have hit the wider economy – particularly sectors still recovering from the impact of the pandemic which employ hundreds of thousands of people.
“Analysis by Hospitality UK shows that with the upcoming rail strikes set to cost hospitality £132 million in sales, the cumulative impact of the rail strikes is £3.25 billion.
“The Night Time Industries Association said their members took a 40% hit on strike days at a time when nearly three-quarters of their members are either just breaking even or losing money due to the wider cost-of-living crisis.”
The RMT held a strike on Thursday and will stage another walkout on July 29.
What services will be affected?
The strike at 14 train companies on Saturday is expected to see wide variations in services across the country with trains starting later and finishing much earlier than usual.
In some areas only around half of train services are expected to run while others will have no services at all.
An RDG spokesperson said: ”The rail strikes called by the RMT union and the overtime ban by Aslef will undoubtedly cause some disruption, affecting not only the daily commute of our passengers but also disrupting the plans of families during the summer holidays.
“This will lead to disappointment, frustration, and financial strain for tens of thousands of people. We apologise for the inconvenience caused and understand the impact on individuals and businesses.
“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately there will be reduced services between Monday 17 July and Saturday 29 July, so our advice is to check before you travel.”
Picket lines will be mounted outside railway stations across England and workers say they are receiving strong support for their action from the public.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said striking rail workers were still waiting for an invitation back to the negotiating table.
“We’ve been on strike for over a year, this campaign’s probably been running for two years.
“The issues are the same. They’re attacking our jobs. They’re making redundancies. They’re closing services.
“We haven’t had a pay rise for four years and the people that remain, they want to cut our conditions and issue new contracts of employment.
“There is not an agreement in sight at the moment but we remain available for negotiation with the companies and with the Government, but that’s up to them to invite us back to the table so that we can work up some solutions to the dispute.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has met the rail unions, listened to them and facilitated improved offers on pay and reform. The union leaders should put these fair and reasonable offers to their members so this dispute can be resolved.”
The impacted lines include: ,Avanti West Coast , c2c, Caledonian Sleeper , Chiltern Railways , CrossCountry , East Midlands Railway , Gatwick Express , Great Northern , Great Western Railway , Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express) , Heathrow Express , LNER , London Northwestern Railway , Northern , Southeastern , Southern , South Western Railway (including Island Line) , Thameslink , TransPennine Express , West Midlands Railway
PA – Alan Jones