Trains Back to Normal in Southern England

LONDON -- A wire service reports that train services in southern England returned to normal Wednesday after a two-day strike, but disruptions continued in Scotland. London commuters face more cancellations within weeks.

Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union ended their 48-hour walkout in England's southwest at midnight after causing huge disruption to services into London's Waterloo Station.

But train services across Scotland continued to be crippled as one in four services were canceled because of a driver walkout. The union has voted for another strike at the end of January, affecting services in both southern and northern England.

Another 48-hour strike on South West Trains called for Jan. 24-25 will again affect London commuters, with action on the same dates and additionally on Feb. 5-6 on Arriva Trains Northern, which serves a network ranging from Liverpool and Manchester north to Newcastle.

The disputes center largely on pay. The union has dismissed as an insult a decision Tuesday by South West Trains to impose a 7.6 percent pay rise for union members in a bid to break the deadlock.

The turmoil on the railways has increased pressure on Transport Secretary Stephen Byers who returned Monday from a vacation in India to calls for his dismissal.

Byers has refused to become directly involved in the dispute, despite criticizing the strike action, and instead called for the union and rail management to work together.

The two sides have met several times over the past week including 16 hours over the weekend, but the union said there was no prospect of a resumption of talks.

One politician called for a passengers to fight back with a day of action against the rail services.

“Often we are very British about this, we just sit on the train or stand on the train and accept it,” Mark Oaten, chairman of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

“I think it would send a very clear message to management, to government and the unions that enough is enough and some form of say of action -- whether it is boycotting the trains or not showing tickets, something that is peaceful -- would demonstrate that commuters are thoroughly fed up.”