Rail strikes will ‘punish millions of innocent people’, govt warns

The RMT’s decision to proceed with train strikes next week will “punish millions of people”, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps warned the UK is “now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country”.

He also claimed that the RMT union had been repeatedly urged not to proceed with the “damaging” industrial action – and focus on negotiations instead.

Mr Shapps said teenagers preparing for their exams will face the additional stress of changing their travel plans, while patients may have to cancel hospital appointments.

He added: “Many people who do not get paid if they can’t get to work face losing money at a time they simply can’t afford to.”

Talks have failed to resolve a bitter row over pay, jobs and conditions – and next week’s rail strikes are set to be the biggest in decades.

They will take place on Tuesday 21, Thursday 23 and Saturday 25 June.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said thousands of jobs were being cut across the rail networks, and workers were facing below-inflation pay rises.

Network Rail has warned that the strikes will cause six days of disruption because of the knock-on effect on services on the days in between.

Government ‘pouring petrol on the fire’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has criticised the government’s handling of the dispute – claiming that the Conservatives have been “pouring fuel on the fire”.

During a speech in Warwick on Sunday, he will accuse Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps of actually wanting the strikes to go ahead, saying: “They want the country to grind to a halt so they can feed off the division.”

“Instead of spending their time this week around the negotiating table, they are designing attack ads.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the government has committed £16bn to keep the railways running throughout the pandemic.

They added: “The railway is still on life support, with passenger numbers 25% down and anything that drives away even more of them risks killing services and jobs.

“Train travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes stop our customers choosing rail, and they might never return.”