As train firms warn rail passengers to “only travel by train if necessary” on Saturday 26 November, ahead of the next strike, the leader of the main rail union has begun talks with the new transport secretary.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, arrived at the Department for Transport HQ in central London at 11.30am – three days after calling a further eight days of national strikes in December and January, together with an overtime ban.
He is meeting Mark Harper, who yesterday said the government could not afford inflation-matching pay rises.
On his way into the DfT, the RMT boss said: “I’m expecting a constructive meeting.”
On Monday Mr Lynch accused Mr Harper of preventing a settlement to the dispute by the train operators, represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). The union leader said a meeting at which firm proposals were to be tabled by the employers was called off at 55 minutes’ notice.
Last month he met the previous transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was in post for only a few weeks under the leadership of Liz Truss.
The RMT’s planned industrial action will hit passengers before Christmas and after the New Year, with four blocks of 48-hour strikes.
The RDG warned passengers: “Train services will be severely disrupted on Saturday 26 November due to a walkout by drivers at 11 train companies.
“Passengers should only travel by train if necessary and should check their journey in advance, and expect some disruption on Sunday with a reduced timetable in operation.|
Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The strike by Aslef brings more uncertainty for passengers and businesses by disrupting their weekend plans.”
The meeting between the RMT leader and the transport secretary comes as Office for Rail and Road figures reveal the scale of collapse of passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the 12 months between April 2021 and March 2022, the number of travellers using London Waterloo – the busiest station in Britain – was less than half the pre-pandemic level.