Travel chaos has hit the UK on New Year‘s Eve, as a 24-hour rail strike caused disruption.
Services operated by CrossCountry and South Western Railway (SWR) are being affected after members of the RMT union said they would walk out for 24 hours starting at midnight on 31 December, as part of a long-running dispute over working conditions.
The biggest disruption was predicted to hit services to and from London Waterloo – and the Government has accused the union of causing “misery” for passengers.
Workers at both rail companies were reported to be solidly supporting strikes, which are disrupting New Year’s Eve train services.
Mick Cash, RMT’s general secretary, said there was “chaos and confusion in the rail industry surrounding the Government’s position, which makes it almost impossible to negotiate”.
The union said it has identified 141 stations on SWR alone which would become “crime hot spots and no-go areas” if guard roles there are left unfilled.
Mr Cash said: “No staff on trains, combined with no staff on the stations, will be a toxic mix for passengers at the locations we have identified, which will increasingly become crime hot spots and no-go areas for vulnerable passengers, while drivers will also be alone and exposed.
“Our members are striking today on South Western Railway over these fundamental issues of public safety, security and access.”
CrossCountry will be running a reduced service between Newcastle and Edinburgh, and there will be no trains between Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Andy Mellors, South Western Railway managing director, said: “The RMT executive knows we plan to keep a guard on all our trains to assist passengers. What we want to discuss with them is what happens when a guard is unavailable at short notice so that our passengers aren’t left stranded.
“We have given them repeated reassurances that we will need more guards as we introduce new and longer trains. For the sake of our passengers and their members they need to stop scaremongering and start talking.
“We will do everything we can to keep our passengers moving during this unnecessary strike, but passengers are warned to check before travelling and be prepared for queues if travelling back from the New Year’s Eve fireworks.”
Rail minister Paul Maynard told the : “It is disgraceful that the RMT is seeking to cause misery to paying customers trying to get home to family and friends for the new year.
“Rail companies are working hard to keep passengers moving, and plan to run the majority of services, but we call on the RMT to show some decency and call off these strikes.”
The strike comes as adverse weather conditions were expected to add to the travel disruption, raising the prospect of some roads having to close.
Disruption is expected across the country with forecasters warning of potential power cuts, issues with mobile phone coverage and a “small chance of damage to buildings”.
A yellow warning for wind has been issued for Northern Ireland and Scotland for 31 December, as Storm Dylan began to roll across the UK in the early hours.
“Large waves and beach material being thrown on to coastal areas could also be a hazard,” the Met Office said.
“There is a small chance of longer journey times or cancellations as road, rail, air and ferry services are affected, with the chance that some roads and bridges could close.”