Talks between unions, the government and rail operators have failed to avert strike action, with three days of walk-outs announced for later this month.
The RMT union has said strike action is necessary as it has not been able to secure a pay deal or guarantees around compulsory redundancies.
When is the national rail strike going to happen?
The RMT union secured a mandate for national strike action last month following a huge national ballot, prompting warnings from the government about restrictive measures to weaken the strike.
Following a meeting of the union’s ruling committee today (7 June) the RMT has confirmed the first three dates on which staff will walk out.
On 21 June, 50,000 staff from Network Rail, thirteen train operating companies and London Underground will walk out, in the latter case over a separate dispute to the national action.
Then on 23 and 25 June, around 40,000 staff will take part in the national industrial action.
While national action will be limited to three days out of the week, the strike is expected to impact services throughout the entire week.
The action by RMT will affect the national railway network for the entire week where the 3 days of action have been called.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously.
“We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1pc and rising.
“Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.
“Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This unfairness is fuelling our members anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.
“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.”
Responding to news of strike dates being announced by the RMT, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is incredibly disappointing the RMT have decided to take action that could drive passengers away from the rail network for good.
“The pandemic has changed travel habits – with 25% fewer ticket sales and the taxpayer stepping in to keep the railways running at a cost of £16bn, equivalent to £600 per household. We must act now to put the industry on a sustainable footing.
“We are working with industry to reduce disruption caused by strike action, but Unions are jumping the gun by announcing this when talks have only just begun. We once again want to urge the unions to come to talks with the rail industry so we can work together to build a better, more modern, passenger-focussed, railway.”
Aside from the national strike ballot, there are a number of individual industrial disputes within the transport sector currently.
Will the strike be disruptive?
The ballot for strike action secured by the RMT is one of the largest in recent years, with workers on 13 of 15 train operators voting in favour of action.
This will mean that virtually every part of the country will be impacted, with limited options available to the government and operators to keep services running during the strike.
There will likely be a number of 24-hour strikes spread across three days initially, with up to 50,000 workers walking out from all parts of the rail network.
There has been speculation that rail travel could be limited to around 12 hours per day along with a reduction in the number and frequency of trains running, with key lines prioritised.
Depending on the extent of the actions, the impact on freight and supply-chains could vary, though the Government has stressed that it has contingency plans in place to “mitigate any disruption”.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The movement of vital goods is absolute priority during any disruption caused by union industrial action.
“We are working closely with Network Rail and the rail freight sector on contingency planning to mitigate any disruption industrial action may cause to passenger and freight services.
“This includes working with freight operating companies and their customers to plan ahead and reduce the impact on national supply chains.”