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UK passengers face more travel chaos as rail strike renewed

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Rail workers stage another major strike in the British capital of London, causing huge travel chaos.

Rail passengers in the British capital, London, are facing more travel chaos as rail workers are staging yet another strike in their long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) walked out on Wednesday, generating massive disruption to services and impacting London Overground and many national rail routes to and from London.

Network Rail warned of “significant disruption” on the railway on Wednesday, advising passengers to “only travel if absolutely necessary.”

The train drivers’ strike will affect London Overground, Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Transpennine Express, and West Midlands Trains.

Members of the TSSA will strike at CrossCountry and take other forms of industrial action at several other operators, according to local reports.

The TSSA is also planning industrial action on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at more than a dozen train companies and Network Rail will strike on Saturday.

Services are likely to be disrupted into early Thursday morning as workers return to duty.

The disruption is expected to affect major soccer games and the final day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, where Prime Minister Liz Truss addressed participants earlier on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Aslef announced on Wednesday morning that its members working on the Croydon Tramlink had rejected a pay offer and would be striking on Monday and Tuesday.

Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan declared that the dispute would persist until the government intervened, insisting that train drivers in England faced a third year without a pay raise and that deals had been achieved in Scotland and Wales.

Whelan further called on the UK’s Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to “lift the shackles” from train companies so they could make a pay offer to workers. “The message I am receiving from my members is that they are in this for the long haul and if anything, they want industrial action to be increased,” he said.

Trevelyan, meanwhile, indicated during a BBC interview that she now saw “more clearly” the perspective of the railway workers after meeting with Whelan and RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch. She had stated earlier on Tuesday that there was a “deal to be done” between unions and train operators, but emphasized that any agreement “will require compromise.”

Trevelyan also told Tories attending the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham the “very last thing that the country needs right now is more damaging industrial disputes.”

On rolling strike action, she said, “The more quickly we can resolve these disputes, the sooner all our efforts can be spent on getting our economy motoring at full speed.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said, “We saw only last weekend that our strike action was rock-solid across the country. Our brilliant members remain determined to see their demands met in the shape of a just settlement.”

Blaming the Truss administration, he added, “We do not strike lightly but are prepared to dig in as we seek a fair deal on pay, job security and conditions in the face of cuts, economic collapse and a cost-of-living crisis at the hands of this chaotic Tory government.”

Cortes said, “With more strikes and wider industrial action in the offing this week, it’s time for ministers to get wise and act now to deliver a fair deal which will halt a winter of rail misery across the network.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has censured the strikes, stating in an interview on Wednesday that they would negatively impact people who are not able to work from home.

Meanwhile, a Department for Transport spokesperson said, “It is incredibly disappointing that for the second time in five days we face disruption on our railways, with businesses once again being affected, thousands of people at risk of being unable to travel to work or school, and doctors’ appointments being missed.”

“Our railway is in desperate need of modernization but all more strikes will do is punish the very people unions claim to stand up for and push passengers further away.”

The industrial action has received backing from other quarters, with music stars banding together to record a new song in support of striking railway workers.

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