BRITAIN is gripped by travel chaos this morning with gridlock on the roads as commuters are forced into their cars.
Rail passengers have been told not to take trains today as the biggest rail strike in a generation begins to bite.Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London[/caption] Heavy traffic on the A40 in Perivale, West London[/caption] Major railway stations, including London Victoria, are closed this morning[/caption]
Just one in five trains running and entire regions have been completely cut off.
Residents living in swathes of the South West, Scotland and Wales are stranded today. Those in Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester will also be marooned.
Major stations around the country are closed until 7.30am and half of all lines aren’t running at all. The services that are running will end at 6.30pm.
As a result, tens of thousands of people unable to work from home have been forced to take their cars to work.
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Motorists have been warned to expect gridlock on some roads.
The AA predicted that the worst affected roads are likely to be main motorway arteries, as well as rural and suburban areas.
Highways England operations manager Louise Boothman told Good Morning Britain the worst delays are hitting early.
“It is slightly busier than normal days,” she said.
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“We’ll continue to monitor it as the morning goes on.”
Another peak in traffic is expected at around 3.30pm, which could last into the early evening, she said.
It comes as thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walk out today, Thursday and Saturday.
They took action after last-ditch talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
London Underground workers will also walk out on Tuesday.
But seems the misery is only just beginning – after militant rail unions last night threatened to stage more crippling strikes for months to come.
Furious ministers have accused union barons of inflicting “misery and chaos” on millions with their “callous” three-day action amid claims cities and towns will go into “lockdown”.
Ros Morgan, chief executive of the Heart of London Business Alliance, said: “The rail and Tube strikes will impose another lockdown on the West End at a time when central London’s economy needs all the support it can get.”
Despite Brits’ pleas, the RMT defiantly admitted it’s causing the carnage to protect ancient rules which mean train staff only have to work 35 hours a week — the equivalent of seven hours a day.
What we know so far…
- Last-ditch attempts to stop the strikes failed to resolve a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions
- Thousands of members of the RMT union will walk out today, Thursday and Saturday
- London Underground workers are also on strike today with commuters told to get home by 6pm tonight
- Train cancellations started yesterday afternoon ahead of the worst shutdown in 30 years
Boss Mick Lynch said: “The strike will go ahead – we call on our members to stand firm, support the action and mount the pickets.
“We are not special. The whole country is suffering. We have a trade union prepared to fight.”
He also said there are no signs of the strikes stopping any soon.
He added: “Our campaign will run as long as it needs to run until we get a settlement acceptable to our people.
“It will go on until somebody offers us a deal we can put to our members and we can vote for it in a referendum.”
Downing Street said it was “deeply disappointing” that the strikes are going ahead, arguing that they will not resolve the issues faced on the railways.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “This is deeply disappointing, that these disruptive, these self-defeating strikes will take place this week.
“Striking does nothing to address the long-standing issues that we need to sort to make sure our railway, that the public use and treasure, is fit for the long term.”
He will say: “The unions are harming the very people they claim to be helping.
“By going ahead with these rail strikes, they are driving away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers, while also impacting businesses and communities across the country.
“Too-high demands on pay will also make it incredibly difficult to bring to an end the current challenges facing families around the world with rising costs of living.”
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has denied he’s “the problem”.
He told Sky News: “The actual unions need to sit down with the employers because this is a highly technical discussion around 20 different areas of modernisation that are required on the railway.
“We’ve given £16 billion of taxpayers’ money through coronavirus to make sure that none of those railway employees lost their jobs.
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“So they need to work on this together between the union and the employers.”
But he’s facing criticism after trouble on planes too, with hundreds of services cancelled and hols in disarray.
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