The prospect of summer travel chaos intensified on Friday when London Underground workers voted for a series of strikes that will coincide with the walkout on the railways.
Union bosses will meet in the coming days to decide on the next course of industrial action on the national rail network and in the capital. The same RMT committee decides the dates for both strike actions and can co-ordinate to cause maximum disruption.
Ministers believe that the RMT, which must give two weeks’ notice for strikes, will target the school summer holidays, with the likeliest days for stoppages earmarked for the third or fourth weekend of July.
Those strikes will, in turn, likely be timed with a mass walkout of British Airways ground staff at Heathrow Airport that is targeted at the summer getaway.
London Underground workers went out on strike on Tuesday , on the first day of the national rail strike, bringing the capital to a standstill and knocking hundreds of millions out of the night-time economy.
But the six-month mandate for Tube strikes , obtained in January after a vote, had expired forcing the RMT to reballot its members. A little over half of the 10,000 members turned out to vote, of whom more than 90 per cent voted for fresh London Underground strikes.
However, Transport for London (TfL), which runs the network, pointed out that in total just 48 per cent of members had voted to strike – 4,912 out of 10,056 eligible to cast a ballot. A TfL spokesman said that the RMT’s mandate had been achieved “by a whisker” and said the decision to strike was “disappointing”.
The RMT said that no date had been set for fresh strikes , but confirmed that its national executive committee would decide the length and timing, allowing the actions to be co-ordinated.
Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, said: “Transport for London and the Mayor of London need to seriously rethink their plans for hundreds of job cuts and trying to take hard-earned pensions from workers who serve the people of London on a daily basis.”
Ahead of Saturday’s third day of national rail strikes , authorities issued a fresh alert to train passengers not to travel over fears that many are reluctant to abandon leisure trips planned for the weekend.
Only a fifth of services will run and half of lines will be closed as 40,000 RMT members at Network Rail and 13 train operators walk out for the third day this week.
Operators are telling passengers they should “only travel by train if necessary” and to check their journey in advance.
Many commuters were able to avoid the disruption caused by strikes on Tuesday and Thursday by working from home.
However, people with long-standing plans to travel by train on Saturday – such as for a day trip or holiday, a visit to friends or relatives, or to attend an event – may be keen to press ahead with their trip despite the industrial action.
A rail industry source said that while stations were “relatively quiet” during the first two strike days, there is “a nervousness” about what will happen on Saturday.
Many seaside resorts will have no services on Saturday, including Bournemouth, Blackpool, Margate, Llandudno and Skegness. Cornwall will also have no trains. Disruption will continue into Sunday.
Steve Montgomery, the chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, said: “We are very disappointed that the RMT leadership has decided to continue with the strike, and the union leadership has chosen to take action which will severely inconvenience the millions of people who had plans over the weekend.
“While we are doing our best to minimise disruption to passengers, our advice is to only travel if it is necessary, and if you are going to travel, please plan ahead.”
Andrew Haines, the chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Unfortunately, the RMT’s decision to carry out another day of needless and premature strike action means our passengers will suffer again on Saturday.”
This week’s strikes are estimated to have cost the rail industry up to £150 million in lost revenue and the consequences of aborting planned upgrade work. The hospitality industry has suggested that the strikes wiped half a billion pounds from the night-time economy.
Other rail unions have threatened further strikes. The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) served notice to ballot its members at Greater Anglia for strike action and action short of a strike over pay, conditions and job security.
The union is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.
Voting starts on June 29, with the result due in mid-July, so the earliest date that strike action could take place is July 27.
The TSSA is also balloting its members in Network Rail, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, Northern, LNER, C2C, Great Western Railway and TransPennine Express.