Millions of people are experiencing disruption as the biggest rail strike in a generation paralyzes Britain’s train services.
Only a fifth of the trains are running on Tuesday and half of the lines are closed as around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have left.
Services are generally restricted to the main lines, but even those are only open between 7:30am and 6:30pm
Busy stations such as London Euston are usually almost deserted except for union picketing.
The National Rail Inquiries trip planning website was down for about half an hour, but the cause of the problem is believed to be unrelated to the strike.
London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines due to a workers’ strike.
The roads are busier than normal, with heavy traffic in city centers and on the outer London sections of the M1, A4 and A40.
People trying to travel around the capital face long queues for buses.
Uber has raised its prices amid a spike in demand, with a three-mile trip from Paddington to King’s Cross estimated to cost £27 at 8:45am.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast there will be Cobra emergency committee meetings on rail strikes this week.
He said he does not meet with unions, describing calls for him to join them at the bargaining table as a “gimmick”.
He continued, “I don’t normally meet with them because it’s a red herring.
“If I thought there was a one in a million chance, it would make the slightest difference, of course I would in the blink of an eye.”
Much of Britain will be without passenger trains throughout the day, including most of Scotland and Wales, all of Cornwall and Dorset, and places like Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester.
Last-minute talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over wages, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
Strikes are also planned for Thursday and Saturday.
At Birmingham New Street station, some would-be commuters and commuters were trying to work out their travel plans, looking at the timetables on their phones and the departures board on the main concourse.
Carol Hutchinson, returning to the Lake District after a six-hour flight from Egypt, landed in the UK to find her direct train from Birmingham International Station cancelled.
Having reached New Street, he was waiting to board, with his luggage, what appeared to be one of the few trains still running.
“I think there will be standing room only… I’m not even sure I can continue with my suitcase,” she said.
Plant Pathology MSc student Munjabordrain Dopl was one of the few commuters at Newcastle Central Station.
He said his investigation was interrupted by the need to catch an earlier train to Manchester airport, before flying to Cameroon to attend his father’s memorial service.
“It’s really getting to me,” he told the PA news agency.
“In a laboratory you have to respect the schedule, and I was supposed to be in the laboratory now and take the train at 1 pm
“Because of this, I had to abandon my research and catch an early train.”
Dozens of people joined the first train to London from Maidenhead station in Berkshire, a popular commuting town, at 7:40 am.
But other platforms were empty, with only one train running every half hour to the capital on the Elizabeth Line route.
Students and parents are encouraged to make an alternative plan for arriving at the school for A-level and GCSE exams.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to say before a cabinet meeting that unions are “harming the very people they claim to help”.
He is set to accuse unions of “turning away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers” while hitting businesses across the country.
He will say: “Wage demands that are too high will also make it incredibly difficult to end the current challenges facing families around the world with the rising cost of living.
“Now is the time to come to a sensible compromise for the good of the British people and the railway workforce.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch warned that the dispute could continue for months, adding: “It is clear that the Tory government, after cutting £4bn of National Rail and Transport funding for London, has now actively prevented a solution to this dispute. ”
The Department for Transport disputed Lynch’s claims, adding that it has cost taxpayers around £600 per household to keep the railway running during the coronavirus pandemic.