February 8, 2023

The RMT union has accused ministers of missing in action rather than hold further talks to prevent new rail strikes from Christmas Eve.

Passengers wishing to travel by train on Saturday face further disruptions and cancellations, with most services ending at 3pm, while some routes are not running at all.

Thousands of members of the RMT union at Network Rail will strike from 6pm December 24 to 6am December 27.

The union said ministers were “missing” and “abandoned accountability”, with no expected further talks having taken place since the union and industry leaders met with Railways Minister Huw Merriman last week.

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch added: “The union remains available for talks to resolve this dispute. But until the government gives the rail industry a mandate to reach a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and working conditions, our industrial campaign will continue into the new year if necessary.”

The union said it had negotiated wage agreements with other employers, including ScotRail, Transport for Wales, Eurostar and Merseyrail, with increases of between 6% and 10%.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “After two years of virtual Christmas, the British public deserves better than their festive celebrations affected by strikes.”

The last intercity departs on many long-distance trains on the morning of December 24, while some routes do not run at all. Continued industrial action instead of a strike by train operators, including a ban on overtime, will also contribute to serious disruptions on parts of the track.

The RMT had said it was not targeting Christmas travel during the strike, as passenger trains do not normally run over the Christmas holiday, apart from a few isolated Boxing Day services. The carriers that had trains scheduled for December 26 – Eurostar, Merseyrail and Stansted Express – have canceled all services.

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However, the rail industry said the timing – with no staff reporting for services after 6pm on Christmas Eve – meant it could not be certain where the disruption would occur, and all passenger trains would need to be in depots before the action began.

The last trains to Edinburgh and Newcastle from London leave at 11am, while those traveling the other way from Scotland to the capital must leave at 8am. There are no direct trains between London and Nottingham or Sheffield, with the last trains between Manchester and Liverpool leaving at approximately 2pm.

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