Rail services will be crippled again on Wednesday because of a fresh strike by thousands of workers in the bitter row over jobs, pay and conditions.
Only around one in five trains will run, on around half the network, with some areas having no trains all day.
Picket lines will be mounted outside railway stations across the UK as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 14 train operators take industrial action.
Passengers are being urged to only travel by train if they must, and if it is necessary, allow extra time and check when their last train will depart.
Trains are expected to be disrupted on Thursday morning with a later start to services as employees return to duties.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has also announced a strike by its members at Avanti West Coast on Wednesday, while members of the drivers union Aslef at eight companies will strike on Saturday.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said union members were more determined than ever to secure a decent pay rise, job security and good working conditions.
“Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new.
“In fact Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50% cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action.
“The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members’ terms and conditions.
“RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone.
“The Government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.”
Transport for London (TfL) said while the industrial action does not involve its staff, varying degrees of disruption are expected on the District and Bakerloo Tube lines, London Overground, and the Elizabeth line, which all share some sections of track with Network Rail.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts to find a breakthrough, I’m afraid there will be more disruption for passengers this week as the RMT seems hell-bent on continuing their political campaigning, rather than compromising and agreeing a deal for their members.
“I can only apologise for the impact this pointless strike will have on passengers, especially those travelling for holidays or attending events such as the Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final (Wednesday) and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (Thursday).
“It is frustrating to yet again ask our passengers to change their plans and only make essential journeys.
“Only around half of Britain’s rail network will be open on Wednesday, with a very limited service running on lines that will only be open from around 7.30am until 6.30pm.
“Passengers who must travel are urged to plan ahead to ensure that they can complete their journeys within this window, with last services from London to Scotland, for example, leaving in the early afternoon.”
Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are incredibly disappointed that the RMT and Aslef leadership are continuing with this action, disrupting the summer plans of millions – including those attending the Commonwealth Games.
“While we will do all that we can to minimise disruption to passengers, our advice is to only travel if it is necessary, and if you are going to travel, please plan ahead.
“If you’re not able to travel, you can use your ticket either the day before or up to and including August 2, otherwise you will be able to change your ticket or claim a refund.
“We have a responsibility to bring our railway up to date and give our passengers a more punctual and reliable service so that we’re able to give our staff the pay rise they deserve.
“But it is wrong to continue asking taxpayers to shoulder more of the burden when they have already contributed £600 per household during the pandemic, or to expect passengers to fund it by paying more for their tickets, when they too are feeling the pinch.
“We ask the RMT and Aslef’s leadership to continue talking so we can come to a deal that works for our people, our passengers and taxpayers.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It’s now clearer than ever that the RMT has no interest in engaging in constructive discussions and is hell-bent on creating further misery for passengers across the UK.
“This action is a cynically timed attempt to derail the start of the Commonwealth Games, one of the first major events the country has been able to look forward to since the pandemic.
“As well as those travelling to the Games, RMT’s actions will affect people in need of urgent care, hardworking families off on long-awaited holidays and day trips, and businesses – all while a fair two-year, 8% deal hasn’t even been put to their members.
“The rail industry has to modernise and be brought into the 21st century for the benefit of passengers and staff.
“We’re extremely disappointed to see that instead of staying at the table, RMT executives have chosen to walk away once more.
“We continue to encourage RMT to do the right thing by their members and passengers alike and call off the strikes.”
Strikes were held in June, and more are planned next month, with little sign of a breakthrough to the deadlocked dispute.
Members of the RMT and TSSA will strike on August 18 and 20, with the coordinated action set to cause travel chaos.
Cat Hobbs, director of campaign group We Own It said: “Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) should be improving services to encourage rail travel, not making them worse.
“The RMT are not only fighting a cost of living squeeze, but for the very future of our railway system.”