Biggest rail strikes in decades begin - causing disruption in Norfolk
- Credit: Archant
The first day of three planned rail strikes takes place today with many train services cancelled, disrupted and delayed.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators, including Greater Anglia, are going on three 24-hour strikes today, Thursday and Saturday, with further disruption expected on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The union argues that many of their members worked throughout the Covid pandemic and were hailed as heroes but now face job cuts, changes to their working conditions and pay rises well below the rate of inflation following years of wage freezes.
Between 2,000 and 2,500 jobs are thought to be at risk on the railways.
In Norfolk, on strike days, Greater Anglia will not run any trains on its regional and branch lines, with a "very limited service" operating on some routes between Norwich and London Liverpool Street.
No Stansted Express services will run between the airport and Norwich on strike days.
With only a fifth of services running and half of lines closed across the UK passengers are urged to check their route online before travelling.
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Drivers are warned to expect a surge in traffic as train passengers switch to road transport.
With the AA predicting that the worst affected roads are likely to be main motorways, as well as rural and suburban areas.
The strike comes as GCSE and A-Level exams take place on Tuesday and Thursday, with parents and students urged to make alternative plans to travel to them.
Those looking to travel to Glastonbury Festival will also face disruption with about half of Great Western Railway's trains due to serve Castle Cary in Somerset cancelled.
So far the government is yet to get involved in talks to agree a breakthrough, which have so far been held between RMT and rail industry officials, who were unable to avert the strike at a last minute meeting on Monday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to say ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that unions are "harming the very people they claim to be helping".
He is set to accuse unions of "driving away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers", while also hitting businesses across the country.
Labour has urged the government to take part in negotiations but unions reacted with fury to reports Labour has banned its frontbenchers from picket lines, in a memo leaked to Politics Home.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: "The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers, by words and by actions."