ritons face another day of travel chaos on Saturday with strike action expected to cause severe disruption to rail services.
RMT union boss Mick Lynch warned of a “very difficult period” ahead as negotiations between railway officials and unions reached a stumbling block once again this week.
Tens of thousands of members of the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) will stage another 24-hour walkout on Saturday after industrial action on Thursday. It follows a summer of strike action, with unions embroiled in a long-running dispute with Network Rail over pay and working conditions.
Just 20 per cent of the network will be open on Saturday, according to Network Rail. Trains that do run will start later and finish earlier than usual.
Meanwhile, commuters in London faced severe disruption on the Tube on Friday after RMT members walked out in a separate dispute over jobs and pensions. Services on the vast majority of Tube lines were suspended, with a very limited operation elsewhere, according to Transport for London’s (TfL) website.
Mr Lynch said the union had been shut out of talks between the Government, the Treasury, and Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office and so the strike showed they were “deadly” serious about protecting their members.
He warned further walkouts were “likely” if no solution could be reached to secure the workers’ pensions and signalled that the prospect of negotiations in the new year on a new pay deal could see a “really difficult period”.
“The issues that are involved in London Underground may get more serious and right across TfL, because they haven’t got any funding from the Government, it’s going to be difficult, ” Mr Lynch added.
Network Rail claim that their latest offer for railway workers is worth more than 5 per cent but will depend on employees accepting “modernising reforms”. The RMT branded the pay rise “a paltry sum” and said it would represent a real terms pay cut.
Earlier this week, unions blamed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for the deadlocked rail dispute.
Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said his members had been “forced” into Saturday’s action “as a result of their employer’s intransigence no doubt aided and abetted by Grant Shapps”.
He added: “Grant Shapps must either come to the table or give train operators the mandate to negotiate and break this impasse.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport accused union leaders of “inflicting misery” by disrupting travel.
“All these strikes are doing is hurting those people the unions claim to represent, many of whom will again be out of pocket and forced to miss a day’s work,” they said.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “It saddens me that we are again having to ask passengers to stay away from the railway for two days this week due to unnecessary strike action, when we should be helping them enjoy their summers.”
Elsewhere, Londoners also face disruption to bus services in west and south-west London and parts of Surrey due to a strike on Saturday by drivers who are members of the Unite union.
Sixty-three bus routes are being affected.
Figures from location technology firm TomTom showed a sharp rise in road congestion in the capital on Friday.
At 9am, the congestion level was 40 per cent, compared with 26 per cent at the same time last week.