BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 7 January, 2002, 11:59 GMT
Rail misery hits UK
Commuter boards train in Southampton
No more than 20% of services were expected to run
Rail misery has hit the UK with hundreds of thousands of commuters in the south-east of England affected by strike action, as an overtime ban hits ScotRail.

The 48-hour Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union strike on South West Trains (SWT) started at midnight on Sunday.

No more than 15-20% of services will run through Monday, the second action by union workers striking over pay and disciplinary issues.

Services expected to run
Ascot to Waterloo
Haslemere to Waterloo
Basingstoke to Waterloo
Southampton to Waterloo
Bournemouth to Waterloo
Surbiton to Waterloo
Wimbledon to Waterloo
The action, on a day when many workers are returning to work after the Christmas break, caused road congestion around London.

Many of the company's 350,000 commuters took to the roads, with traffic on the M3 in Surrey slowing to a crawl.

The latest chaos comes as Transport Secretary Stephen Byers returns from his holiday in India, for which he has been much criticised.

But officials at the Department of Transport have insisted that Mr Byers will not intervene in the latest dispute, maintaining it is a matter for "management and unions".

Fares increase

Last week's two-day strike by the RMT paralysed services across southern England.

About a quarter of all trains in Scotland are also being cancelled from Monday because of a separate dispute about drivers' pay.

The unofficial overtime and "rest day working" ban has been prompted by demands for more drivers and pay parity with other train operators.

You can't keep leap-frogging one group of staff over another within a company

Vernon Hince
The action comes as UK fares increased by up to 17%.

Some frustrated commuters braving the delays and cancellations to get to London's Waterloo station sympathised with disgruntled guards.

But others, some of whom had had up to two hours added to their journey time, admitted they could not understand the strikers' grievances.

RMT acting general secretary Vernon Hince said the union was still prepared to negotiate, despite the failure to reach an agreement over the weekend.

Wage bargaining

Mr Hince told BBC One's Breakfast programme he had expected there would be talks at ACAS late on Monday morning.

He said: "You can't keep leap-frogging one group of staff over another within a company.

"What we really need to do is to get some sense into the industry over wage bargaining."

Station concourse
Many station concourses were deserted
Sunday's talks at ACAS were the fifth attempt to resolve the dispute in a week.

SWT insists its offer of 7.6% over 18 months meets the RMT's pay claim.

But the union says the offer is worse than one made last week and blames management for the second action.

Union officials also deny that the strike action is motivated by a grievance over the disciplining of two members.

Andrew Haines, managing director of SWT, said an earlier, better pay offer had been conditional on there being no strike action.

Disciplinary charges

He said: "Passengers will suffer unfortunately but we are not painted into a position.

Buses replace trains
Weymouth to Bournemouth
Portsmouth to Haslemere
Alton to Guildford
Wokingham to Ascot
Lymington to Brockenhurst
Basingstoke to Woking
"I have come up with half a dozen options again. I've said to them I will give you the best deal you've got in the country.

"[Union officials] wouldn't talk about it - they weren't negotiating."

A stumbling block remains the downgrading of RMT activist Greg Tucker from a train driver to a ticket collector for "safety-related incidents".

The four days of strike action were called over pay and conditions but Tuesday's stoppage will also relate to disciplinary disputes.

The BBC's Hugh Pym
"There have been bitter exchanges"
Andrew Haines, Managing Director of SWT
"We have made offers but they were not accepted"
Vernon Hince, RMT union
"It was a disapointing weekend"
See also:

07 Jan 02 | Scotland
Rail woe for commuters
04 Jan 02 | Scotland
Trains to run on emergency timetable
07 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK transport system 'failing'
30 Dec 01 | Scotland
Train dispute causes more disruption
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories