London Rail strikes: Union action called off at 11th hour but disruption continues

Rail services are still severly disrupted on Saturday despite a the a series of planned strikes by railway workers being suspended.

Three 24-hour rail walkouts were set to be held by the RMT union on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, meaning the national network including trains in and out of London faced significant disruption.

However, a spokesperson said planned strikes on the London Underground on Thursday were still due to go ahead as this was a separate dispute. This will leave the Tube with limited or no services, according to TfL.

Rail bosses have said that due to the short notice there would be an “extremely limited” rail service on Saturday, and that disruption would continue into Monday. Network Rail advised passengers to only travel on those days if “absolutely necessary”.

Special strike timetables will remain largely in place for Monday but operators hope that services will be back to normal after that.

The RMT said it had secured “unconditional” talks with Network Rail and the promise of a pay offer from the train operating companies.

The union said the dispute remains “very much live” and it is continuing its re-ballot of members to secure a fresh mandate for action with the result due on 15 November.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The threat of strike action and our strongly supported industrial campaign has made the rail employers see sense.

“We have always wanted to secure a negotiated settlement and that is what we will continue to push for in this next phase of intensive talks.

“Our priority is our members, and we are working towards securing a deal on job security, a decent pay rise and good working conditions.

“Our re-ballot remains live and if we have to take strike action during the next 6 months to secure a deal, we will.”

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail's chief negotiator, said: "It's welcome news that the RMT has called off its strikes but the very late notice means that services for tomorrow cannot be reinstated and will remain extremely limited, and while we, and our train company partners, will work without pause over the weekend, there will be limited ability to change the 'strike timetable' for Monday.

“Our advice remains to please check before you travel and on Saturday and Monday and only travel by rail if absolutely necessary.

“We look forward to getting back round the table with all our trades unions early next week to see if the progress made this week can be built on, and a resolution found."

Another transport union, the TSSA, had already called off November action at Network Rail so that discussions could continue, and on Friday suspended planned rail strikes on 5, 7, 8 and 9 November at different firms.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: "This is a positive development for passengers up and down the country but the very late notice means, unfortunately, there will still be significant disruption across the network tomorrow and into Monday.

"We encourage unions and employers to continue their negotiations and calling off these strikes has given those talks a better chance of success.

"It is vital, for passengers and workers alike, that all parties continue to work together and deliver a modern railway we can all be proud of."

The announcement followed calls from London’s businesses to unions to end their dispute with the rail industry and TfL “once and for all” in the wake of huge losses caused by damaging strikes.

Disruption over the summer led to an estimated £52 million loss for the capital’s businesses, which earlier on Friday warned of a “devastating ripple effect” on the London economy.

As Thursday’s strike on London Underground is still set to go ahead, TfL is advising commuters to avoid attempting to travel on the Tube on that day.

Services on the London Overground, while not directly affected, may also be subject to last minute changes, including non stopping at some stations shared with London Underground, said TfL. Services may also be extremely busy.

Among those who will be affected nationwide by the strikes only being called off last minute are thousands of rugby fans travelling to Cardiff for the Wales v New Zealand autumn international on Saturday, Network Rail Wales said.

There will be fewer trains before the game, and none leaving Cardiff after it has finished.