Managers and train drivers could join the strikes across the railway, potentially setting up a complete national shutdown by the time of the Commonwealth Games in July.
The TSSA union, whose members manage control rooms, signalling and power for train operators and Network Rail, has launched its first strike ballot, while the Aslef union has called the first regional walkouts by drivers.
The TSSA union is smaller than the RMT but its members provide the contingency staff that would allow some trains to run during the RMT strikes in late June. Coordinated action between both unions later in the summer would most likely prevent even the limited operations the Department for Transport hopes will run during the week of strikes this month.
Rail staff at Avanti West Coast, which operates intercity services between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, are to be balloted for a strike, the TSSA union has announced.
It said it was the first ballot “in an escalating dispute across the railway”.
The union’s general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “We could be seeing a summer of discontent across our railways. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including coordinated strike action.”
The move is likely to be the start of further ballots for strike action across all train operating companies and Network Rail.
Strikes by the TSSA could occur by late July, stopping intercity trains to Birmingham, the host city of the Commonwealth Games.
The Aslef union, which represents train drivers, has also announced limited strike dates at three companies, including a 24-hour walkout during the week of the RMT strikes on Greater Anglia. The strike, on Thursday 23 June, will stop all services in the region, including the Stansted Express.
Croydon Tram drivers will stage two 48-hour strikes on 28-29 June and 13-14 July, and Hull Trains drivers will strike on Sunday 26 June.
Aslef is balloting a further nine train operating companies for industrial action.
Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “Many of our members have not had a pay rise since 2019. We will fight to maintain the pay, terms and conditions, and the pensions of our members. The train companies are doing very well out of Britain’s railways – with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers – and we are not going to work longer, for less.”
Rail workers from the RMT union are walking out on 21, 23 and 25 June, with the effects also likely to disrupt many services on days when workers are not on strike.
The railway is expecting to run around 20% of normal services between 7am and 7pm, preserving some trains on main lines and urban services. Most Network Rail signalling staff, as well as the onboard and station staff of 13 English train companies, will be on strike. No trains are expected to run north of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, nor beyond the Cardiff region in Wales, on strike days.
A tube workers’ strike will also halt the London Underground on 21 June.
Talks have been held today between Network Rail and the RMT but with no breakthrough in the dispute over pay and workplace reform.
Network Rail is expected to meet TSSA representatives at Acas next week to head off a strike.
The shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, gave qualified backing to rail workers on Tuesday, but said Labour wanted to avoid strikes.
The party’s frontbench has been restrained on the issue, with the leader, Sir Keir Starmer, having said he supports the right to strike but that the rail strikes should not go ahead.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Nandy said: “We want to avoid the strikes and we’re on the public’s side on this. We’re also on the rail workers’ side.
“They’re dealing with the same pressures that everyone else is – the cost of food, the cost of soaring inflation rates, taxes going up, and they’re really struggling to make ends meet.
“They’re the people that we went out and applauded during the pandemic because they kept our services going and they’ve seen their pay in real terms attacked again and again over the last decade.”
A spokesperson for Nandy declined to clarify whether she supported or opposed strike action.
In the Commons on Wednesday, Boris Johnson described the strikes as “reckless and wanton”. The prime minister’s spokesperson also said strikes would drive people away from using the railways when passenger numbers had yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.