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Train strikes: Travellers face chaos as UK hosts Eurovision final

 (AP)
(AP)

Thousands of rail passengers suffered fresh travel chaos on Saturday due to another strike on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union staged the walkout at 14 train operators across England in an escalating an long-running dispute over pay.

The strike follows action on Friday by train drivers in the Aslef union, which crippled services, with some parts of England having no trains all day.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the strikes were “cynically targeting” the final, taking place in Liverpool on Saturday night. However, the RMT said it was the last date allowed under employment laws.

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Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan revealed there had been no meetings with the Government since early January despite continuing deadlock over the pay row.

Drivers were prepared to continue taking industrial action until they had a decent pay offer, he said. Aslef has described an offer of an eight wage rise over two years as “risible”.

08:29 , Anthony France

RMT chief Mick Lynch says they are considering teaming up with other rail unions to go on strike on the day of the FA Cup final on June 3.

“We will look at it next week. We will resume our industrial action campaign should that be necessary,” he said.

Mr Lynch joined a picket line at Euston station in London.

Which lines are affected?

09:06 , Bill Mcloughlin

The following lines will be impacted by Saturday’s strike: Avanti West Coast, c2c, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, GWR, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Heathrow Express, LNER, London Northwestern Railway, Northern, South Western Railway, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, TransPennine Express, and West Midlands Railway.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch: “We didn’t target Eurovision Song Contest"

09:29 , Anthony France

This weekend’s train strikes were not purposefully timed to disrupt travel to the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said.

Speaking from the picket line at Euston, Mr Lynch said he was sorry for the disruption but that travellers have had “plenty of time to make arrangements”.

He said: “It’s part of a long-running campaign, we haven’t got a settlement, we’ve been at it nearly a year now, there’s no offer that we can accept.

“Despite constant negotiation, we haven’t got an offer that our members would find palatable, so the campaign goes on and we’re taking more strike action.

“We want a pay deal, we would like a guarantee of job security for our members going forward, it’s a defensive battle really, we haven’t had a pay rise for our members for four years now.

“We haven’t targeted Eurovision, this is the last day under the legislation that we can strike, we’ve got a new mandate now but this is the last day we could put the strikes on.”

Passenger reports “excellent” service on journey to London

09:44 , Anthony France

One train passenger travelling from Newcastle to London was taking the strain – thanks onboard supplies of Yorkshire Tea.

Kala tweeted London North Eastern Railway: “LNER never fails to impress me with their Yorkshire Tea for #teaonthetrain.

“Strike day services running seamlessly so far LNER, great work! The 8.28am from Newcastle to London staff are excellent!”

“We’ll drive,” say Eurovision Song Contest fans hit by train strikes

09:58 , Anthony France

Katie O’Reilly, 46, an accountant from Cardiff on her way to Liverpool Lime Street, said she had planned to drive to the city for Eurovision if train strikes had disrupted her journey.

Speaking at Euston station in London, she said: “We’re very excited, we go a lot, we’ve been overseas for them. I’ve been a fan since I was about six.

“The train disruption is a factor, but as long as our train there works then we are happy. We had ulterior plans, if we couldn’t get a train then we were going to drive up there. We booked our tickets about four or five months ago.

“We’re excited to take the atmosphere in, go to the Eurovillage, go to the club, very excited. I’m with my best friend from university, so what could be nicer?”

Eurovision Song Contest fans “afraid” of train disruption

10:31 , Anthony France

Trina Rustlie, 52, comes from Norway but now lives in Paddington.

She will be supporting the Norwegian act while members of her family are supporting France.

Speaking at Euston station in London on her way to Liverpool Lime Street, she said her family was “a little bit afraid” of potential train disruption but decided to travel anyway.

“We were a little bit afraid, we had to take the fast train and pay more, but that’s okay,” she said.

“I’m mostly excited to see Norway perform.”

RMT leader Mick Lynch says union won’t “disarm” in strike battle

11:36 , Anthony France

RMT leader Mick Lynch says he “refuses to disarm” when his members aren’t finished negotiating.

He claims Transport Secretary Mark Harper has spent £1.25billion on the long-running dispute and moved it “no further forward”.

RMT boss Mick Lynch: I don’t set the date of Eurovision Song Contest or FA Cup Final

11:56 , Anthony France

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch blamed “anti-trade union laws” for train chaos inflicted on fans travelling to the Eurovision Song Contest final in Liverpool.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “Today is the last day under the anti-union laws that we can have a strike under the mandate. You get six months to run action. After that six months, you cannot take any more action.

“Today is the last Saturday of our previous mandate.

“We give two weeks’ notice under the law, which is what the Government requirement is, but if we didn’t take strike action today, we wouldn’t have been able to take any more during that mandate.

“So, that’s down to the anti-trade union laws.

“We’ve not targeted Wembley or Liverpool or any of the activities that people get up to. There isn’t a day where people aren’t undertaking important activities, in business life or personal life.

“We don’t set the date of Eurovision. We don’t set the anti-trade union laws that require us to have a mandate that expires after six months.”

Gates to Eurovision fan zone thrown open ahead of grand final screening

15:44 , Sami Quadri

Liverpool’s fan village has thrown open its gates ahead of the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ticket-holders gathered for hours in the beating sun ahead of the Eurovision Village on the historic Pier Head opening to the public on Saturday.

There were cheers from fans dressed as Ukrainian acts Verka Serduchka and Kalush Orchestra and families in Union flag outfits as the stewards removed the barriers.