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UK rail passengers warned of severe disruption into new year

Rail passengers have been told to avoid some services for two weeks and that trains will be “significantly disrupted” across most of the country into the new year.

The warning from Network Rail came as some services juddered back to life on Tuesday after the Christmas shutdown and several days of strikes by RMT union members.

A combination of industrial action and engineering works meant trains started later than usual or not at all on Tuesday. Services between Cardiff and the Midlands and London Stansted airport were cut owing to a strike at CrossCountry.

Trains are expected to be much busier than usual in the run-up to New Year’s Day, before a week of nationwide strikes by members of the RMT and Aslef unions from 3 January.

Network Rail, which manages Britain’s railways on behalf of the UK government, has warned passengers to expect serious disruption into the new year, and urged those on some routes to avoid travel unless necessary until at least 9 January.

It said: “Rail passengers who use the west coast mainline from London Euston to Carlisle and rail routes in the West Midlands, [the north-west], Merseyside and Cumbria are being advised to only travel by train if absolutely necessary between 24 December and 8 January.”

CrossCountry, which runs services between Penzance and Aberdeen, told its passengers to expect severe disruption until at least 7 January owing to industrial action.

Members of the TSSA union at CrossCountry began a 24-hour strike at 9pm on Boxing Day as part of a long-running campaign for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase that addresses the rising cost of living.

TSSA members work in roles in customer service management, driver management, training, control, customer communications, safety, timetabling and planning. Managers are based at stations including Edinburgh, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Bournemouth and Plymouth.

On Monday the TSSA tweeted a message of “solidarity” to its CrossCountry members. It said: “Rail workers are seeking basic fair treatment: not to be sacked from their jobs; a fair pay rise in the face of a cost of living crisis & no detriment to terms & conditions.”

TSSA members at Great Western Railway are to strike from noon on Wednesday to 11.59am on Thursday, and at West Midlands Trains from noon on Wednesday to noon on Thursday.

The TSSA’s organising director Nadine Rae said: “Our members at CrossCountry do not want to strike, especially over the Christmas holiday period, but they are sick and tired of being taken for granted. They deserve a pay rise to help manage the escalating cost of living, and they rightly demand job security.

“The company, like all the train operators under the control of the Department for Transport, need to face up to the fact that only serious offers which meet our aspirations will end this dispute.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “After two years of virtual Christmases, the British public deserve better than to have their festive celebrations impacted by strikes. The transport secretary and rail minister have worked hard to facilitate a fair and reasonable offer, which two unions have accepted, and it is incredibly disappointing that some continue to strike. We urge them to step back, reconsider and get back round the table, so we can start 2023 by ending this damaging dispute.”

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