InDisruption caused by three days of strikes will leave only a fifth of rail services running, with no trains at all connecting some British cities during the evening rush hour, Network Rail has warned.
Industrial action on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week will cost the economy £150 million and cause six days of disruption.
On the strike days only 20 per cent of trains, or 4,500 services, will operate with a heavily reduced service on other days. Lines will only run for 11 hours on strike days, from 7.30am to 6.30pm, and passengers will be told to travel only if necessary. On days in between, services will start later.
Best of TimesWe’ll send you our top stories, across all sections, straight to your inbox. Simple as that.One-click sign up.
Some operators, including Northern, Southeastern and TransPennine, have advised people not to travel.
More than 40,000 members of the RMT union will strike on the three days in a dispute over proposed job losses and their demand for inflation-busting pay rises.
Each strike will start at midnight and last 24 hours but disruption will continue on the following days because staff will not have begun night shifts and trains will be out of position on the network.
The last train from Edinburgh to London will leave at 1.30pm, with the last Manchester-London service at 2.47pm. Passengers travelling between London and Bristol will be told the last service is at 4.33pm. The final train from London to Birmingham will be at 3.43pm.
A full revised timetable for the week, including strike days, will be published on Friday. Mainlines will be prioritised for passenger services although across the country last services will be leaving in mid-afternoon.
Network Rail bosses said that discussions to prevent the strikes continue, but it is now almost inevitable that the walkout will go ahead.
Engineers and vital signallers at Network Rail will be among those striking. They will be joined by workers from 13 of England’s 15 train-operating companies.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said the walkout would cost up to £150 million in lost revenue as well as engineering work that cannot go ahead.
He said the network would be calling on contingent signallers, including people who previously did the job but have since moved to management, to open as many signal boxes as possible to run the railway.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, warned that the rail strikes will put patients at risk, as operations and hospital appointments face being cancelled. He told The Daily Telegraph that doctors, nurses and other frontline workers would struggle to reach their work, while many patients would be unable to attend treatment.
Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “These strikes will affect the millions of people who use the train each day, including key workers, students with exams, those who cannot work from home, holidaymakers and those attending important business and leisure events.
“Working with Network Rail, our plan is to keep as many services running as possible, but significant disruption will be inevitable and some parts of the network will not have a service, so passengers should plan their journeys carefully and check their train times.”
The Department for Transport has increased Network Rail’s efficiency target to £4 billion for the period 2019-2024, leaving it trying to find an additional £500m of savings, added to the need to modernise the maintenance of the network.
Haines said: “The consequences of the strike make a resolution much harder because the losses will be such that the pot of money is smaller.”
Yesterday Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, wrote to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to seek a meeting with him and Rishi Sunak, saying: “The union has been negotiating with the government but the government have not been in the room.’’
The request was rejected by the government who insisted the unions must negotiate with the rail operators.
Tim Shoveller, the chief negotiator at Network Rail, said the business needs to make productivity increases as well as efficiencies to protect its future and that it would “keep talking for as long as it takes” with the RMT.