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UK rail services have been severely disrupted due to widespread workers’ strike action

origin 1RMT union members on a picket line outside Euston station in London ©AFP

Many of Britain’s railway stations were again virtually deserted on Tuesday as tens of thousands of workers began a new round of strikes after the Christmas holidays.

About half of the UK’s rail lines have been closed with just a fifth of services running.

Rail, shipping and transport union members are at loggerheads with railway companies and the government over wages and working conditions.

Passengers are frustrated, although some are also sympathetic to the workers’ demands.

“Well, it’s really inconvenient for us, but it’s about their livelihood and safety,” said a regular passenger in London. “So we’re affected as people who ride trains and it’s inconvenient and difficult, but it’s already difficult because of the way management has treated them. I think they should at least talk to them and respect them as workers who deserve a wage.”

Other people weren’t so supportive.

“I have no support for them. No sympathy. NHS absolutely, the RMT and of course Mick Lynch has 120,000 (£) a year. He won’t lose any pay today.”

Mick Lynch is the secretary general of the RMT union, but insists the government is to blame for the deadlock.

“We gave them three weeks notice before this wave of action, they haven’t taken any steps to broker a deal or to get a settlement, which is really disappointing for us and I’m sure it will be for the public as well,” he said. explained. . “But the government holds the key to this and is not willing to use it at the moment.”

UK transport secretary Mark Harper urged union leaders to come to the negotiating table and said the government had offered “a very fair pay offer”.

More strikes are expected for the rest of the week with the main train drivers union ASLEF also leaving.