Travel warning on Christmas Eve for train commuters as strikes hit services

Commuters still hoping to travel by train at Christmas were warned to check timetables and leave early, with a strike bringing most services to an end at 3pm on Saturday.

Thousands of RMT union members will strike at Network Rail from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27th.

The last intercity trains on some long-distance routes are set to leave as early as 8am. Some major routes will not run at all, partly because of the continuing industrial strike including bans on overtime at train operating companies.

RMT argued it was not targeting Christmas travel when describing the latest strike in the long-running dispute over wages and jobs.

However, Network Rail said the timing of the measure meant that all passenger trains had to be in depots before the measure began.

Emergency staff are being recruited to allow Network Rail to proceed with most of the £120m engineering work planned over the Christmas break. No passenger trains were ever scheduled on Christmas Day. The few Boxing Day services planned on Eurostar, Merseyrail and Stansted Express have now been cancelled.

With large stations quiet during most Fridays, railway sources indicated that many commuters decided to travel earlier – while polls of motoring organizations suggested a third chose to drive this year rather than take the train they would normally choose.

The last Christmas Eve trains from Edinburgh to London were scheduled to leave at 8 am. The last trains for Newcastle and Scotland will leave at 11am, and in both cases between Manchester and Liverpool at around 2pm.

No direct trains will run between London and Nottingham or Sheffield on the East Midlands Railway, urging passengers not to travel on its services on Saturday.

More disruption will continue after Christmas, with services starting later on 27 December due to strike action, and continuing problems in the South West, Chiltern, East Midlands and elsewhere due to RMT overtime bans.

The TSSA will also strike for 24 hours on separate days on Cross Country, GWR and West Midland trains. Ongoing engineering works will also affect services, including on the West Coast line from London Euston, up to Liverpool Street in London.

There was no sign of an imminent resolution to the dispute. The RMT has accused ministers of “disappearing” since union and industry leaders met nine days ago. “Until the government gives the rail industry a mandate to reach a negotiated settlement on job security, wages and working conditions, our industrial campaign will continue,” said General Secretary Mick Lynch.

A Department for Transport spokesman said ministers had “worked diligently to facilitate a fair and reasonable showing”, adding that the public “deserved better than their celebratory celebrations were affected by the strikes”.

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