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Cambridge Trades Council backs striking rail workers as commuters are warned to expect disruption all week

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Commuters have been hit by rail chaos today (Tuesday), with 80 per cent of trains cancelled across the country amid strike action.

About 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. They are due to strike again on Thursday and Saturday (June 22 and 25).

About a fifth of trains are running today and half of all lines are closed. Services are generally restricted to main lines, and these are only open between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

An RMT picket line. Picture: David Davies/PA
An RMT picket line. Picture: David Davies/PA

Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern services, has warned passengers that there will be disruption from today until Sunday June 26.

Many stations are closing for the three strike days and GTR expects to run Sunday-style services on the days following the strikes, with no trains running before 7.15am.

“Please only travel if your journey is absolutely necessary, and expect severe disruption,” the company said.

Railway stations have been left deserted and while many workers will have opted to work from home, there were also reports of increased congestion on the roads.

Cambridge and District Trades Council has signalled its support for the striking rail workers and its members have joined picket lines.

Chair James Youd said: “The TUC march in London saw tens of thousands of people calling on the government to relieve the pressure of the cost of living crisis and for all people to be given pay increases at least at the level of inflation, which is currently 11 per cent according to the Bank of England.

“The RMT strike must be one that all working people stand behind because if it fails, many others will fall into the spiral of weakened wages but increased prices. Lets be very clear this is a crisis made by this government. The Conservatives have presided for 12 years over stagnant growth and real terms falling wages.

“We are a united front. The trade union movement in Cambridge says enough is enough. All workers must be offered pay increases of at least the CPI rate of inflation. This is why we stand resolutely with our comrades in the RMT in their battle.”

One member of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail group pointed to the timing of the strikes, which coincides with exams season.

“So unkind of them to do this during GCSE exams when students need to get to school. Children have had enough disruption to their education over the last few years,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook page.

Lines likely to remain open during rail strike. Graphic: PA
Lines likely to remain open during rail strike. Graphic: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a meeting of the Cabinet that reforms are vital for the rail industry and those who work in it.

He said: “I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course.

“To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.”

London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines today due to a walkout by workers.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is considering possible disciplinary action after several of his party’s MPs joined picket lines outside stations.

He reportedly ordered frontbenchers not to do that as the Conservatives have sought to use the row to claim Labour is on the side of the striking workers, leading to traffic chaos.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch warned that the dispute could continue for months, adding: “It is clear that the Tory government, after slashing £4 billion of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.”

The Department for Transport disputed Mr Lynch’s clams, adding that it has cost taxpayers about £600 per household to keep the railway running during the coronavirus pandemic.

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