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Fortnight of chaos as travellers returning after new year and Christmas break face daily strikes

Rail companies warn passengers to only travel ‘if absolutely necessary’

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Sunday 01 January 2023 18:26 GMT
London's New Year's Eve fireworks return with breathtaking display

Travellers have been warned of two weeks of travel chaos as the new year begins with a fortnight of strikes affecting the road and railways.

Rail companies are facing a multitude of train cancellations and severe delays as they work with limited staff due to staff walkouts.

Train operators are advising passengers to only travel if “absolutely necessary” and to plan their journey ahead of time.

A National Highways workers strike is underway on New Year’s Day, and more travel disarray will continue in the week as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) are due to strike on four days in the coming week.

The union for train drivers, Aslef, will also participate in walkouts on Thursday 5 January.

It comes as members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) are planning a national walkout on 3 and 4 January – the first working days after the holiday season in England.

Widespread industry strikes are expected to cause travel chaos over the first two weeks of January (PA)

National Highways said it has put in place “well-rehearsed resilience plans” to ensure that the 4,500-mile strategic road network remains open and safe and is confident the industrial action will have minimal overall impact.

But it expects roads to be busy on both days and drivers are being asked to plan ahead, particularly with national rail strikes being staged at the same time.

It is advising people to check for road conditions and any congestion before embarking on a journey.

Duncan Smith, executive director of operations at National Highways, said: “A small minority of front-line operational staff are involved in the PCS strikes, which have had minimal overall impact so far.

“We have well-rehearsed resilience plans in place to continue managing and operating our network safely, including when wider action takes place in the new year.

“Millions of people rely on our roads and there is a possibility that they may be busier than usual on strike days, particularly as they fall on the first working days after the festive break when industrial action is also being staged on other transport modes.

“We’d urge drivers to plan ahead and check their vehicle is in good working condition.”

Members of PCS at National Highways have already staged three regionally-focused strikes over the last month which involved some front-line operational staff – those in regional operations centres and on-road traffic officers.

More than 1,000 members of RMT took part in industrial action on New Year’s Eve (PA)

National Highways said they have had no impact on the operation of motorways and major A-roads.

The PCS is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the government over pay and is staging a series of strikes by its members across the civil service.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Previous strikes elsewhere in England have caused disruption for people travelling over the Christmas period, and this strike is likely to do the same.

“While we regret people’s travel plans will be affected, we make it very clear this strike could be called off today if the prime minister or chancellor put money on the table.”

Commenting on the rail disruption, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Until the government gives the rail industry a mandate to come to a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and condition of work, our industrial campaign will continue into the new year.”

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