Rail passengers are set for more travel chaos as only around 20% of normal train services will run on Saturday due to another strike by union members.
More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 15 train operating companies will walk out in a row over jobs, pay and conditions.
Around half of the network will be closed all day and trains will operate only between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
Passengers are being urged to “only travel by train if absolutely necessary on Saturday”.
Services will start later than normal on Sunday morning as workers return to duties.
Ahead of the industrial action, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch wrote to Transport Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan, urging her to “unshackle” the railway companies and allow them to reach a settlement with the rail unions.
Mr Lynch wrote: “I am writing following your comments at the Conservative Party Conference last weekend in which you said that there is a ‘deal to be done’ between the rail unions and train companies in relation to the ongoing industrial disputes.
“I am also hopeful that a negotiated settlement between the RMT and the employers can be reached.
Empty platforms and a stationary train at Kings Cross station in London, as members of the drivers' union Aslef and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) go on strike. Picture date: Wednesday October 5, 2022. Victoria Jones
“However, for this to be achieved, your Government must unshackle the train operators who currently take their mandate directly from yourself.”
In a statement, the Department for Transport (DfT) urged union bosses to work with their employers “not against them”.
“For the third time this week, and second weekend in a row we face disruption and disarray on our railways,” a DfT spokesperson said.
“Weekend rail travel has been on the rise since the pandemic as people travel to support their favourite sports teams, meet loved ones or go to events. These plans are all now jeopardised and our economy is damaged as a result.
“Our railway is in desperate need of modernisation but all strikes will do is punish the very people unions claim to stand up for and push passengers further away.
“We urge union bosses to reconsider this divisive action and instead work with their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.”
It comes after a week of travel misery, with strikes also taking place last Saturday and on Wednesday.
Passengers are advised to check National Rail Enquiries or their train operator’s website for updates.
People with a ticket for Saturday whose journey is cancelled or rescheduled are entitled to a refund. Alternatively, they can travel on another day up to and including Tuesday October 11.
Season ticket holders are entitled to compensation through the delay repay scheme.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) speaks to the crowd at a rally in Victoria Square, outside the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2022. Jacob King
It comes after analysis by the rail regulator found that Network Rail’s maintenance staff earn nearly a fifth more than workers doing comparable roles.
The Office of Rail and Road said it commissioned independent consultants to establish whether rail industry employment costs are higher or lower than “market comparators”.
The study found that total reward – which includes pension costs and other measurable benefits – for maintenance workers at Network Rail is “18% above the market median”.
Commenting on the study, Mr Lynch said: “Strong trade unions like the RMT are important in raising wages and creating good safe working environments.
“And if it means RMT members’ wages are higher than the market rate, there is something wrong with the market.”