Rail passengers are facing travel disruption on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final as RMT union members go on strike again in a protracted dispute over pay and conditions.
Fourteen train companies were affected, with many services limited.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the strikes were “cynically targeted” at the final, which takes place in Liverpool on Saturday night.
But RMT denied planning the strike to coincide with the event in Liverpool.
It said Saturday was chosen for the strike because it was the last day allowed under employment law.
Its general secretary Mick Lynch said he regretted the disruption but added that people had “plenty of time” to arrange alternative trips, with the union giving more than two weeks’ notice .
The government said the RMT had rejected an offer of “fair and reasonable” pay, but the union denied this.
Train drivers belonging to another union, Aslef, went on strike on Friday, with some parts of Britain without trains all day. It also denied plans to strike to impact Eurovision.
Merseyrail, which operates trains around Liverpool, said it was not affected by Saturday’s strikes and would run late-night services.
But most train companies to and from Liverpool have limited service due to strike action, by National Railway.
National Express says it has added 33 services to Liverpool to help fans get to Eurovision.
Railway companies have warned There will be “little or no service” over large areas of the network and said passengers should prepare for disruption in the days immediately following the strike.
Speaking at a fence outside London Euston station, Mr Lynch said today was the last Saturday of the union’s six-month term in which they could strike.
He later told BBC Radio 4’s Today Program: “We’re not targeting Wembley or Liverpool or any of the activities where people are involved” – a reference to both Eurovision and the play-final. -off of the National Football League at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.
“There isn’t a day when people don’t carry out important activities, in their business or personal lives.
“We don’t set Eurovision dates. We don’t put anti-union laws that require us to have mandates that expire in six months.”
He said the union “would not be targeting a national cup final”, but did not rule out looking at strikes taking place on June 3, when the men’s FA Cup final will be played. organization.
Future strike dates could be announced as early as next week, he said, adding that the union was ready to meet the government and employers at any time to try to reach an agreement. favorable.
He wrote to the transport minister calling for a special summit between ministers, train companies and unions to end the turmoil on the railways.
Which lines are affected?
The following rail operators will be affected:
West Bank Avantic2c, Chiltern Railwaytransnational, East Midlands RailwayGatwick Express, Dai BacGWR, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express)Heathrow Express, LNERNorth West London Railway, NorthernSouthwest Railway, South EastSouthern, ThameslinkTransPennine Express, and West Midlands Railway.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents 14 rail companies, said rail users should plan ahead and check services before going. It warns that with few services running there will be “many variations”.
Rebecca Dane-Alderman had planned to travel from Milton Keynes to Worthing to watch the Eurovision final with her best friend – a tradition they have shared every year, except during the coronavirus pandemic cause.
She said much of Friday was spent trying to find alternative routes, but they were unsuccessful, so she will instead watch it in separate locations over a phone call. video.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Program: “Most of yesterday I was pretty sad and I felt completely down because of it all.
“I know there are bigger problems in the world, but it’s just something that, as I said, is a tradition for us and we’re really looking forward to doing.
“I really hope there’s some sort of solution soon… Because it impacts people in more ways and is less obvious than people might imagine.”
Kaisa, a fan from Finland, is hoping to travel to the Eurovision final in Liverpool by train – but has a bus ticket in case.
Speaking outside Euston station in London, she told the BBC: “We know that there are train strikes, we actually have bus tickets too, so we keep them in our back pockets if we have any. incident happens, we can still take the bus.
“Looks good, I’ve seen the train schedule so we hope to get there in time.”
RDG has offered railway workers a 5% pay rise for 2022.
The pay rise in the second year depends on the reforms being negotiated.
Mr Harper has called on the RMT to allow its members to vote on the proposal the RDG has made.
But Mr Lynch said the RDG had “damaged” talks to end the long-running dispute because the deal would prohibit further industrial action.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We don’t have enough people, and our members, as well as members of Aslef, have to work extended shifts, extra days, six and seven days a week, when they are sick and tired of it.
“They should be able to make a living during the workweek on their contract.”
Meanwhile, Aslef’s train drivers turned down an offer for two years, in which members would get a 4% raise for 2022 and a 4% raise this year.
However, between the railway industry and the unions there were some solutions. An amendment proposal from Network Rail, which owns and operates the UK’s rail infrastructure, was accepted by RMT members on 20 March, ending that separate dispute.
Aslef drivers will again strike on May 31 and June 3, the day of the FA Cup final.
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