Large numbers of London commuters stayed home Wednesday as train companies ran a reduced timetable between Tuesday’s strike and another scheduled for Thursday after talks on a deal with unions failed.
Passenger numbers on the UK capital’s underground network were down 53% through 10 a.m. compared with a week ago, according to Transport for London, suggesting that many people opted to avoid traveling into the city amid warnings of continued disruption between the walkouts.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said on Twitter that Thursday’s strike would go ahead after talks broke down. “Until the government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed,” the labor group said.
There was a deal agreed to in the northwest of England, where the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association accepted a 7.1 per cent pay deal at Merseyrail, which serves the Liverpool city region.
The commuter numbers appear to suggest that RMT’s tactic of effectively wiping out train travel for a week by staging three days of staggered strikes is working. The union is pressing for higher pay and a guarantee of no compulsory job cuts.
While some 40,000 rail workers were due back after Tuesday’s walkout, which saw services cut to just 20% of usual levels, the further strikes set for Thursday and Saturday mean only 60% of trains were scheduled to run Wednesday.
The 730,000 entries and exits on the London Underground during what’s normally the morning peak still represent a rebound from just 160,000 journeys Tuesday—down 95% from the prior week—when 10,000 subway staff were also on strike.
The Tube isn’t part of the national RMT action but relies on people arriving in London via mainline trains for a large part of its customer base.
The two sides appeared far apart during a series of media interviews, clashing angrily over the demands and reasons why transport budgets have been cut. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told ministers they must be ready to “stay the course” during the dispute, which lawmakers see as part of the wider fight against the soaring cost of living.
“Our members will continue the campaign and have shown outstanding unity in pursuit of a settlement to this dispute,” RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said in a statement.