June 6, 2023

Striking railway workers have vowed to continue running away until the government “unblocks” their wage dispute on the second straight day of cancellations.

14 railway companies have been hit by a strike action by the RMT union on Saturday – the day of the Eurovision final in Liverpool – following a separate strike by ASLEF train drivers on Friday.

Both strikes have led to widespread cancellations and show no signs of stopping after the RMT rejected a 9% wage increase.

Trains in the south east on sidings at Ramsgate station in Kent as services are disrupted as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) go on strike in a long-running dispute over jobs and pensions.  Photo date: Thursday, March 16, 2023.

ASLEF, which was offered an 8% increase over two years, has done so strikes planned until June 3 – the day of the FA Cup final.

After rejecting the most recent offer, RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch called for a special summit of unions, train operators and the government in a letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper.

He told Sky News that the railway bosses want the unions to call off any remaining strikes before negotiating further – but their union action is “solid” and “as long as this campaign continues”.

“What they want us to do is call off the dispute and then renegotiate without the power on the table — and we just can’t do that,” he said on Saturday. “You don’t disarm yourself halfway through a campaign.

Members of the drivers' union Aslef on the picket line at Euston station, London, during their long-running wage dispute.  Photo date: Friday, May 12, 2023.
Striking ASLEF train drivers on Friday

“It is up to the government to unblock this dispute because they are the ones who have the final say on what is proposed at the table.

“In their contracts with these companies, they determine what the negotiating position is and what the offers are.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch (centre) and striking railway workers in London Euston
Mick Lynch (center) said union action, as things stand, remained ‘solid’

Union has not presented the latest offer to its members

Paul Gentleman, spokesman for Great Western Railway, whose members are on strike today, said he knows RMT members who are happy with the latest offer – but the RMT has not given members a chance to vote on it.

He described it as “disappointing” and the dispute as “toxic”, telling Sky News that a separate summit is not necessary as “existing methods” “could provide the solution”.

Alison McGovern, the Labor shadow secretary, added that ongoing train strikes are hampering the UK’s economic recovery.

Read more:
Rail passengers and Eurovision fans are facing significant disruption in new strikes
Who will take action in 2023 and when?

But Mr Lynch said the union did not put the bid to a vote because it failed to keep up with the cost of living crisis and inflationary pressures.

“It is unacceptable. It does not meet the requirements in the dispute,” he said.

For a more accessible video player, use the Chrome browser

Railway strikes must stop

It comes after the government was forced to bring operator TransPennine Express under its control after a year of widespread delays and cancellations.

TransPennine, which is also on strike on Saturday – covering the north of England and a small part of Scotland, has been hit hard by the strikes by ASLEF drivers.

Mr Harper said his department had “played our part, but ASLEF must now play theirs” by calling off further strikes.

Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily, wherever you get your podcasts from

Merseyrail, which runs trains from Liverpool, did not strike on Saturday, and Eurovision Song Contest organizers insisted travel to the city for the final would not be disrupted.

But those not yet in Liverpool for the final will not be able to get there as they rely on connecting services from: Avanti West Coast; c2c; Chiltern Railways; Cross Country; East Midlands Railway; Gatwick Express; Great North; Great Western Railway; Great Anglia; Heathrow Express; Island Line; LNER; London Northwestern Railway; Southeastern; Southern; Stanstead Express; Thames Link; TransPennin Express; or the West Midlands Railway.