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Travellers face further disruption with second 24-hour train strike

Paddington station on Friday  (PA)
Paddington station on Friday (PA)

Rail services have been hit with a fresh strike on Saturday in a long-running dispute over jobs and pay.

Around 20,000 staff at the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) have walked out amid a bitter row with train companies and the Government that has continued for more than 18 months.

Travellers are being warned that fewer than half of trains will operate and some services will be subject to short-notice cancellation.

It follows days of disruption to air travel after National Air Traffic Services could not process flights automatically.

Over a quarter of flights were cancelled on Monday, just as families returned to the UK from their summer breaks.

And those who do manage to get a flight back to Gatwick Airport today will struggle to get home by train.

Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink are all affected by today’s strikes. Most of the services hit by industrial action are in England, but some long-distance operators are affected, meaning trains to Wales or Scotland may also be cancelled.

Southern and Southeastern will be running a reduced service during strike action.

It comes after Aslef went out on strike yesterday with 13 operators such as Avanti West Coast, Cross-Country, Thameslink and TransPennine Express shut down all day.

Aslef’s Mick Whelan said on Friday that drivers were “in it for the long haul”.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said airlines had reported “most customers” have reached their destination.

He praised steps taken by the industry in helping to get to this point. NATS said an “unusual piece of data” it received forced it to switch to manually checking flights. Mr Harper will be sent a preliminary inquiry report on Monday.

RMT General secretary Mick Lynch said: “After a week, the RDG has formally responded to our initiative to try and reach a negotiated settlement to the national dispute.

“While it is encouraging that the train operating companies want to continue dialogue with us next week, a fresh proposal will be needed to progress this dispute towards a settlement.

“Their most recent proposal has been rejected and we will have to try and see if we can find a way forward.

“Our strike action remains on this Saturday and our industrial campaign will continue until we reach a negotiated settlement on working conditions, job security and pay.

“RMT has laid out a comprehensive framework on how we can reach a negotiated settlement and is prepared to meet at anytime, 24/7.

“It is now up to ministers to break the deadlock and allow rail bosses to put forward a revised offer.

“We have negotiated dozens of deals with rail employers across the country, throughout the last 18 months.

“Yet we are still unable to find a way forward in this dispute which the Department for Transport has ultimate responsibility for.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “After taxpayers supported rail workers throughout the pandemic, it’s frustrating to see both Aslef and RMT coordinate their strikes with the aim of causing as much disruption as possible on the last weekend of the summer holidays.

“There remains fair and reasonable offers on the table for both unions, one which would bring the average train driver’s salaries up to £65,000 and one which RMT members working for Network Rail accepted months ago.

“Continued industrial action is disappointing and delays the reforms that would ultimately benefit passengers, rail workers and taxpayers.”