Tories warn 27-day rail strike is a ‘taste of things to come’ if Jeremy Corbyn wins election as Labour plans to roll back anti-strike laws to make it easier for union members to down tools
- Commuters brace for another day of chaos as 27-day long rail strike continues
- The drastically reduced service saw passengers queue for an hour in the cold
- Other commuters were even locked out of the over-crowded stations entirely
Commuters were given a ‘taste of things to come’ under Jeremy Corbyn yesterday as union militants began the longest strike in Britain’s rail history.
On a day of mayhem, hundreds of thousands of passengers endured ‘horrendous’ delays on South Western Railway (SWR) due to action by the Labour-backed Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
With 900 train guards on strike, SWR had to cancel 850 trains across swathes of London and the South –wrecking the travel plans of an estimated 600,000 passengers.
Commuters are pictured waiting for trains at Bracknell railway station. As commuters battled to get to work, politicians and union chiefs blamed each other for the chaos
Workers will strike for 27 days this month, costing businesses in the capital up to £400million in total.
It comes as part of the RMT’s long-running dispute over the role of guards on driver-only trains.
Last night, the Tories warned the strike was a ‘taste of things to come’ should Mr Corbyn end up in No 10 after next week’s general election.
The RMT, which has donated £130,700 to the Labour party since 2016, has helped to bankroll Mr Corbyn’s leadership bid.
Meanwhile, Labour is pushing plans to make it easier for trade unions to take industrial action with a rollback of anti-strike laws.
London’s Waterloo Station is pictured above during the strike. With 900 train guards on strike, SWR had to cancel 850 trains across swathes of London and the South
The party has already promised to fulfil the RMT’s demands by scrapping driver-only trains and putting a guard on every service in the country.
As commuters braced for another day of chaos today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Daily Mail: ‘As a frustrated rail commuter myself, I want more trains to run on time. December’s strikes are just a taste of things to come if Labour win power on the 12th.’
He added: ‘This is about politics pure and simple. The RMT leadership, who donate to Mr Corbyn, are trying to interfere with the election and are holding passengers to ransom who are just trying to get to work or home to kids.’
This SWR strikes, by guards who fear they will lose their jobs to driver-only trains, will not take place on Election Day on December 12, Christmas and Boxing Day.
SWR has drafted in 250 ‘contingency’ guards, including staff who normally work in admin roles. This has allowed it to run around 1,000 of its 1,850 weekday trains.
But the drastically reduced service yesterday saw passengers queue for an hour in the freezing cold before ‘fighting’ their way on to packed trains.
Others were locked out of over-crowded stations entirely or piled on to rail replacement buses.
To add to the chaos, travellers said the number of carriages on key services had been reduced.
Jackie Hulme, 50, who works in consulting and pays £240 for a season pass, said: ‘It was disastrous. For me, the worst thing is the cost of the tickets. It is so expensive and then you are packed like sardines. It is too awful for words. And to think we will experience that for the whole month is just shocking.’
Passengers are pictured waiting for trains at Clapham Junction, west London. SWR has drafted in 250 ‘contingency’ guards, including staff who normally work in admin roles
Jo Castle, an IT worker at Network Rail, added: ‘I just think RMT are bringing the public into their bun fight and it’s not fair. I hate the fact RMT are holding us hostage.’
Clare Moriarty, of the Department for Exiting the European Union, tweeted: ‘I cannot believe that on a strike day when there are only two trains from my station in the peak hour you have shortened train length by a third.
‘Please have some thought for your passengers.’
As commuters battled to get to work, politicians and union chiefs blamed each other for the chaos.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s transport spokesman, told LBC: ‘Right across the country, those issues have been resolved to everybody’s satisfaction. Putting those safety-critical guards on trains has happened everywhere.
‘Yet South Western, who had an agreement with the trade union, have reneged on that agreement and we now find ourselves in that terrible situation.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This strike is solely about protecting safety and accessibility on SWR trains.’
Last night an SWR spokesman said: ‘The strike timetable largely ran as planned and the only issues were caused by infrastructure issues that do arise anyway and are largely out of SWR’s control.’
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