'Worse than a strike!' Rail shambles leaves Britain in chaos as RMT 'holds taxpayer to ransom'
Militant union claims it's impossible to run trains despite strike being called off LAST week
RAIL services across the country were cancelled and roads brought to a standstill today as unions appeared to strike in all but name.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) insisted their walkouts were off and that staff were working as usual.
But in reality passengers across the country were left in limbo by "reduced timetables" with thousands of services cancelled, despite the strike supposedly being called off on Friday and train operating companies, unions and Network Rail having several days to plan ahead.
The disruption also led to chaos on Britain's roads this morning as millions of frustrated commuters took to their cars in a desperate bid to get to work.
Josh Brown, a local councillor from Woking, did manage to get on a train but Tweeted a picture of passengers packed into the carriage, adding: "Kept like cattle all due to the @RMTunion holding the taxpayer to ransom - shameful!"
Furious commuter Alison Johnson added: "Thousands of rail workers have spent the weekend doing nothing on full pay after the RMT union called off a series of national strikes at a few hours’ notice.
"In the days ahead many rail staff are likely to remain idle, with significant parts of Great Britain deprived of trains."
Another added: "The strike was called off yet there are still no trains running. So, rail workers get a day off on full pay. Well played, comrades."
And an angry Twitter user added: "There's allegedly no strike, but there are no trains anywhere and the roads are absolutely rammed. This is worse than a strike!"
The RMT said it "appreciated the frustration" of commuters but "none of this is the fault of staff who have been working as normal."
The union - which is locked in a long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions - said last week it had had secured “unconditional” talks with Network Rail (NR) and the promise of a pay offer from the train operating companies.
But the union admitted the dispute remains “very much live” and it is continuing its re-ballot of members to secure a fresh mandate for action with the result due on 15 November.
Talks will now be held over the next few weeks to try to resolve the stand-off. A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said advice remains to check before travelling.
“Unfortunately, the late notice of the suspension of strike action means that while train companies are working hard to reinstate services, some services will remain severely disrupted for our passengers into the early part of next week and our advice remains to please check before you travel,” a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Network Rail said there was be a “quite a mixed picture” of delays and cancellations today depending on the train operator. But they added that widespread disruption is not expected on Tuesday and that services should also be running as normal on Wednesday, which had been another planned strike day, since operators will have had time to reorganise the usual timetables again.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The threat of strike action and our strongly supported industrial campaign has made the rail employers see sense. “We have always wanted to secure a negotiated settlement and that is what we will continue to push for in this next phase of intensive talks.
“Our priority is our members, and we are working towards securing a deal on job security, a decent pay rise and good working conditions.
“Our re-ballot remains live and if we have to take strike action during the next six months to secure a deal, we will.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the suspension of the strikes was a “positive development”, adding: “We encourage unions and employers to continue their negotiations and calling off these strikes has given those talks a better chance of success.
“It is vital, for passengers and workers alike, that all parties continue to work together and deliver a modern railway we can all be proud of.”
The TSSA announced it was calling off its planned rail strikes on November 5, 7, 8 and 9 after receiving an invitation to “intensive talks” from the Rail Delivery Group. TSSA members were due to take strike action in five different rail companies on different days over the period.
Interim general secretary Frank Ward said: “We have always said that strikes are a last resort, and we are glad to finally be invited to the first set of formal talks with train operators in months.”B