LONDON: Railway commuters across England faced travel misery on Friday as train drivers staged their second stoppage over pay this week, the latest in a wave of UK industrial action.
Millions of people were forced to make alternative travel plans or work from home as the majority of train companies on the country’s fragmented network said they were running no services.
Central London railway stations such as Euston were nearly deserted, with rail hubs elsewhere in England also emptied.
Following a strike on Wednesday, members of ASLEF and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) walked out again in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
Wednesday was the biggest single day of UK industrial action in more than a decade, as half a million workers, including teachers and Border Force staff, also staged strikes.
Public-sector staff across the UK economy are at loggerheads with the government as they demand big pay rises to cope with decades-high inflation - currently running at nearly 11 percent - and a resulting cost-of-living crisis.
Tens of thousands of nurses who began unprecedented strikes in December will stage another stoppage on Monday.
Simon Weller, of the ASLEF union representing train drivers, said the months-old rail dispute was going “backwards” due to a lack of progress in ongoing talks and shortcomings in the latest pay offer.
“We are being asked to give up collective bargaining and effectively agree to a no-strike deal,” he added.
“Obviously it was going to be rejected - it was designed to fail.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted the UK, which is predicted to enter recession this year, cannot afford double-digit salary increases, as he vows to halve inflation this year.
“We’ve got to stick to the path,” he told broadcaster TalkTV, in an interview to mark the end of his first 100 days in power.
Asked for his message to the public, Sunak said: “It’s have hope. Have hope because I can make it better, and I will make it better.”