Travel chaos looms as rail strike hits start of summer break

A strike by train staff in the RMT union will severely affect rail services in Britain on Thursday, heralding the start of 10 days of transport disruptions and delays around the peak summer holiday weekend.

Some 20,000 RMT members across 14 train operators will go on strike for 24 hours on Thursday and again on Saturday, coinciding with the end of a week-long ban on overtime by train drivers in the Aslef union.

Both unions will also go on strike next week on the London Underground, all but wiping out tube services for most of the week and causing heavy congestion on the roads.

Road congestion across the country will peak on Friday and Saturday as most schools in England and Wales are suspended for the summer. Cross-Channel ferry passengers have been warned that there will be long queues at Dover. Some airport staff are also expected to go on strike next weekend.

Thursday’s train strikes will cut services on Britain’s rail network, with a number of cross-border services to Wales and Scotland canceled despite industrial action only taking place on English operators contracted by the Department for Transport .

Most train operators will operate reduced schedules, although there are wide regional variations.

Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, has advised passengers to check their travel arrangements in advance as more cancellations and changes are likely, including on the nights before and the mornings after all planned strikes.

A spokesperson said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the RMT union and Aslef’s ban on overtime will certainly cause some disruption, affecting not only our passengers’ daily commute, but also families’ plans during the Summer Vacation.

“This will lead to disappointment, frustration and financial stress for tens of thousands of people. We apologize for the inconvenience caused and understand the impact on individuals and businesses.”

The effects of industrial action will be compounded in places by engineering work, particularly on the main intercity route, the West Coast Main Line linking London to Glasgow via Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. Avanti West Coast will be reduced to an hourly service with no trains operating to North Wales, Blackpool, Stoke-on-Trent and Edinburgh.

Other long-haul carriers, including the LNER and GWR, will make similar reductions, and TransPennine Express will eliminate some routes entirely.

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Northern has said it will run a “very limited” service. More than two-thirds of the stations in the south-east will be closed, and services by the South Western and Govia Thameslink Railway will also be reduced.

The misery of commuters in the south will be compounded by the London Underground strikes, which will halt virtually all services from Tuesday to Friday. The continuing action for six days from Sunday by RMT members, and Aslef drivers on Wednesday and Friday, when some Unite staff will also go on strike, will also mean an early end to underground services on Sunday for the night, with interruption in the mornings of Monday, July 24 and Saturday, July 29.

On the roads, the RAC and transport analysts Inrix warn of especially heavy traffic on Fridays and Saturdays, with an additional 12.6 million leisure trips during the first four days of most school holidays. The worst delays are expected to be on the M5 south-west of Bristol, which the RAC says would result in “bumper-to-bumper” traffic at peak times.

The Port of Dover has warned that tourists must wait up to two and a half hours for border processing at the weekend due to additional post-Brexit passport controls, with 3,000 cars due to arrive for the ferries on Saturday morning.

In better news for travelers, planned strikes at Gatwick by DHL ground staff for easyJet flights have been called off, though Unite union members working for other baggage handlers at the airport are still planning action from the last weekend of July. A strike by security staff at Birmingham airport was also called off.

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