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Day of misery for travellers as plans hit by largest rail strike for a generation

In Manchester a trickle of travellers entered and left a largely deserted Piccadilly train station, along with some bewildered tourists.

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Euston Station in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Euston Station in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Euston Station in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Millions of people have dealt with a day of misery as their travel  plans were thrown into disarray by the largest rail strike for a generation.

Only a fifth of trains were running on Tuesday and half of lines were closed as about 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out.

David Raposo Buzon, a healthcare support worker in north London, who was an hour and a half late for work, pointed out that  NHS staff like him “aren’t able to strike” like those from rail companies.

He waited at a bus stop from 6.30am to make it in for his 7.30am scheduled start, but long queues and packed services meant he did not make it to his workplace until 9am.

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Healthcare support worker (David Raposo Buzon/PA)

Healthcare support worker (David Raposo Buzon/PA)

Healthcare support worker (David Raposo Buzon/PA)

The 34-year-old, originally from Spain, told the PA news agency:  “I feel OK with people doing strikes, but at the same time I feel angry when I think that NHS workers are not able to strike even if our conditions at work are really bad.

“We aren’t able to strike because we need to provide a minimum service but the service is already under minimum right now and, on the top of that, if you strike, people literally die, so you feel guilty and, at the end, don’t do it.”

He added that “my salary is totally worse than the ones that are striking, the country needs a change”.

Harry Charles,  30, an electrical engineer at a hospital, said his normal 10-minute journey to work by train to London Bridge took him 90 minutes.

Mr Charles, from Lewisham, south-east London, said: “Obviously I had to wake up early and left my house at 6am.

“I am with the employees who are striking because their money is not going up and the cost of everything is rising.

“The strike has caused a lot of hassle for people but everyone wants to be able to eat and be able to afford to put in a good day’s work.”

The father of three, who got into work on a packed bus after three or four went past too full to take on any more people, added: “One thing is – just imagine what it would be like getting through this if the weather was bad.”

Usually-busy stations nationwide were nearly deserted, except for picket lines of union members early on Tuesday, with the start of services delayed until 7.30am.

In Manchester a trickle of travellers entered and left a largely deserted Piccadilly train station, along with some bewildered tourists, as RMT pickets manned the entrances.

The station, which handled more than 130,000 visitors last weekend, was running just 20% of normal weekday services.

Amber Zito, 24, a canine hydrotherapist from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, had just missed her train back to Huddersfield at Piccadilly station in Manchester after seeing her boyfriend in the city.

Ms Zito, who was waiting for the next train in an hour’s time, said: “They are usually more frequent. It is not great is it?

“Everything is kind of going tits up at the moment, planes, trains, everything. Nothing seems to be running properly at the moment.

“I blame the Government for the strike. I don’t blame the people who work for train companies at all.

“They are only trying to do what everyone wants for their job, but it’s frustrating when you want to get somewhere.”

Scott Dallas, 28, from Kirkintilloch, said getting to Glasgow Queen Street had not been too bad but he may have to cut his trip short to catch his last train at about 6pm.

He said: “It is a bit of a pain but it could be worse.

“If I didn’t have to come to this conference today I  probably would have  worked at home.”

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Israeli holidaymakers Eliya Lavi and Oriel Lavi at London Bridge Station (Helen William/PA)

Israeli holidaymakers Eliya Lavi and Oriel Lavi at London Bridge Station (Helen William/PA)

PA

Israeli holidaymakers Eliya Lavi and Oriel Lavi at London Bridge Station (Helen William/PA)

Israeli tourists Eliya Lavi, 18, and Oriel Lavi, 21, arrived at London Bridge underground with their suitcases to find it closed, and then spent an hour trying to figure out where they needed to go to get to their hotel in north London.

Eliya Lavi said: “We just came from Gatwick and from Tel Aviv to take our first holiday in London.

“We want to get an Oyster card to get us to the hotel but the Underground is closed. It sucks. We have been here for an hour to try and find out, but they (the station staff) just tell us to ‘go here’ or ‘go there’.”

Mr Lavi said: “It was our first time here and we have been excited to come but this has not been good.”

He added “the welcome has been good and some people have tried to help”.

Susan Millson, 69, of Clapham, south-west London, described the strikes which had forced her to cancel a trip to East Grinstead, West Sussex, to see her sister for the day, as “outrageous” and “awful”.

She said there was no point in trying to make alternative arrangements, including for Wednesday, as there is bound to be a “knock-on effect” even though it is not a strike day.

It is “outrageous that there is no give and take between the unions and the Government”  and the situation  is  happening at a time when “no-one can afford to strike at the moment the way the country is”, said Ms Millson.

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