Rail passengers face fresh travel chaos on Friday because of another strike by train drivers which will leave large parts of the country with no services all day.
Members of Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
Rail operators warned of severe disruption, with trains that do run due to start later and finish much earlier than usual – typically between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
The rail industry said it was working hard to keep as many trains running and criticised the rejection of an offer which would give drivers an 8% pay rise over two years, taking average salaries up from nearly £60,000 a year, to almost £65,000.
Simon Weller, assistant general secretary of Aslef, said the dispute was going “backwards” because of the lack of progress in months of talks.
He told the PA news agency: “I don’t know whether to point the finger of blame at the ineptitude of the Department for Transport or the Rail Delivery Group.
“We would struggle to recommend a deal of a 4% pay rise for last year and 4% this year if there were no conditions attached, but we are being asked to give up collective bargaining and effectively agree to a no-strike deal.
“Obviously it was going to be rejected – it was designed to fail.”
He claimed the latest offer would add a “significant” number of contracted hours to a train driver.
On the issue of whether Sunday working should be compulsory, he said: “We have been willing to include Sundays in the working week, but companies find it cheaper to have drivers working overtime on Sundays.”
A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Having made an initial offer which would have taken average driver salaries from £60,000 to nearly £65,000, we had hoped the Aslef leadership would engage constructively to move talks forward, rather than staging more unnecessary strikes. We can only apologise for the disruption.
“To minimise the impact of the Aslef action, we advise passengers to check before they travel, allow extra time and find out when their first and last train will depart.”
It will be the second strike by train drivers this week, after they took part in the huge day of industrial action on Wednesday, which also involved teachers, university staff, civil servants, bus drivers and security guards.
Around 1,900 members of Unite working as bus drivers for Abellio in London will complete a three-day strike on Friday in a separate dispute over pay.