UK train drivers launched a strike Saturday, citing growing pay disputes and working conditions.
The industrial action will see train drivers in nine companies walk out for 24 hours, causing significant disruption to travel networks.
Aslef, one of the main unions representing train drivers and workers, accused companies of refusing to increase pay for drivers and warned that more strikes in the coming weeks are panned if disputes are not resolved.
“We don’t want to go on strike, strikes are always a last resort, but the companies, and the government, have forced our hand,” said Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary.
“We don’t want to inconvenience passengers because our friends and families use public transport too, because we believe in building trust in the railways in Britain, and because we don’t want to lose money by taking industrial action,” he added.
The strike will affect services across the country, including the Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
The walkout will be in place until early Sunday.
Passengers have been advised to use alternative forms of travel or to start their journeys earlier in affected areas.
Other companies not involved in the strike will continue to operate.
They, however, are expected to be busier than usual.
“The companies have said that they cannot, or will not, give our members an increase. They blame the government, while the government says it’s down to the train operators. So we are caught in a Catch-22 situation where each side blames the other,” said Whelan.
The Department of Transport had criticized the move by the railways union and accused it of inflicting uncertainty on passengers who rely on rail services.
“People deserve certainty and confidence that their train will run on time, and while this move was unavoidable, it should minimise the fallout for passengers,” according to a statement from the department.
“This is a prime example of why we need to modernise our railways, so that passengers benefit from reliable timetables which don’t rely on the good will of drivers volunteering to work overtime in the first place,” it added.
Aslef, which will hold picket lines outside railway stations, said its members have not had a pay rise in three years and face bad working conditions.
On Aug. 18 and 20, members of the RMT and TSSA unions will launch another strike while London Underground and London bus drivers plan to launch industrial action Aug,19.
In June, a mass RMT walkout caused one of the UK’s largest rail strikes in 30 years.