There is travel chaos in large parts of the UK as a massive rail strike by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) drags on.
The 5 day strike has closed much of Britain’s rail network, leaving only a few services for commuters on urban and intercity lines.
As many as 40,000 members of RMT have gone on strike over the UK government’s handling of the pay dispute, job cuts and changes to their terms and conditions.
The stand-off has meant that much of the railway in Wales, Scotland and several parts of England are not running.
Left with no choice
The workers union has alleged that the government is blocking a settlement, which has resulted in poor working conditions on the railway.
In a country already struggling as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, the public opinion regarding the strike has been split.
A YouGov poll last week found that 51% opposed the rail strike, while 37% supported the strikers.
While many note that the railway strike amounts to arm-twisting by the union, others think that soaring inflation and public sector pay caps have left the workers with little choice.
The railway union has been talking to the government for months but there seems to be an impasse.
Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, told media that there had been “radio silence” from the government since a meeting in mid-December.
Meanwhile Network Rail, the infrastructure operator, has warned of reduced service and disruption every day from Dec. 13 to Jan. 8, including a near shutdown of the network as commuters return to work following the New Year holidays.
Among the operators which will run no trains all day on Thursday are Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Northern, Southern, Southeastern, Thameslink and Transpennine Express.
Rail links to the UK’s two busiest airports will also be cut, with Gatwick Express and Heathrow Express shutting down.
Proposed anti-strike laws
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is poised to announce — possibly on Thursday — government plans for new legislation to curb strikes, sections of the British press reported on Wednesday.
The government is mulling legislation that enforces “minimum service levels” in six sectors, including health, rail, and border security, and that cover many of the high-profile strikes taking place this winter.
With vital sectors like the UK’s much vaunted NHS slipping, public transport in dire need for improvement, and post-Brexit worker shortages felt across the UK, a dysfunctional train service is the last thing Britons need.
The government must intervene positively to try and find a middle ground and curb this spiral of decline.