Lynch threatens strikes until summer

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Good evening. It was the return to work that wasn’t for millions of Britons today, as widespread train strikes prevented many from reaching the office. We have the latest amid warnings from Mick Lynch that rail strikes could continue into the summer.

Evening briefing: Today’s essential headlines

Royals | The Duke of Sussex was wrong to claim that the King has shown “no willingness” to reconcile, sources have said. Prince Harry suggested in an interview to promote his forthcoming memoir that he blamed his father and brother for the ongoing family rift. However, Victoria Ward reports that those close to the King insist that he has always made clear how much he loves both of his sons, keeping communication channels open throughout the last few years, despite the many barbs from California. Father and son are understood to have remained in contact, meeting several times during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations last June. Camilla Tominey writes that Prince Harry’s outburst proves why the Royal family stands by ‘never complain, never explain’.

The big story: Train strikes could go on beyond May

As Britain faces the most disruptive rail strikes yet this week, Mick Lynch has said industrial action will need to continue beyond May unless a reasonable offer is made to the RMT. Network Rail workers represented by the RMT union are also on strike on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week. Train drivers, represented by Aslef, are striking on Thursday. Speaking from a picket line at Euston station in London, the RMT General Secretary told the PA news agency: “They (the strikes) are likely to go ahead if there’s no offer that we can work on. We would like to get into a situation where we’re negotiating constantly with the companies and where we didn’t have to have strike action, and then work up a settlement that our members could vote on and accept. But if we don’t get that there will have to be more action, and we’ve got a mandate that runs through to May this year, and if we have to go further, that’s what we’ll need to do. We don’t want that, though.” All this month’s strike dates are listed here.

Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, insisted that the Government was “facilitating” a deal in the dispute. Mr Harper said that a deal must be fair to the taxpayer, saying “there is not a bottomless pit of taxpayers money to throw at this problem”. He added that the “fair and reasonable” offer on the table is “comparable to the sort of pay deals” workers are being offered across the economy. Tom Harris writes that if the shift towards home-working becomes irreversible, railway workers will have to give up not just wage rises but their jobs.

Rail staff offered steep discounts

Striking rail workers are being offered a large discount on train tickets for family outings as part of a package of travel perks aimed at bringing walkouts to an end. Oliver Gill reports that the family members of rail staff will be entitled to a 75pc reduction on fares for leisure travel under the proposals, which are one element in a wider offer to end the dispute causing chaos for commuters this week. Bigger discounts are also being offered for workers’ annual season tickets. Rail staff get 75pc off when buying a season ticket at present, but this reduction is capped at £2,750 annually. Any cost above this is borne by rail workers themselves. Discussions are now underway about removing the cap, a move described by rail industry insiders as “a game changer” for staff – especially as millions of ordinary Britons do not have their train travel paid for by their employer, with ticket prices set to rise by 5.9pc.

The tech that could break the unions

Although the focus has been on pay demands, the standoff is as much – if not more – about sweeping reforms to day-to-day operations. Network Rail, the public body that is responsible for tracks, signals and stations, and train operators must find around £2bn of annual savings – savings that can be realised by changes to what some claim are “archaic working practices”. Greater use of technology, popular on the Continent but fiercely resisted by all-powerful trade unions in the UK, is a core plank of the reforms. Mick Lynch says relying on technology such as artificial intelligence would make the railways “less safe than they are now”. Nevertheless, Network Rail has already begun laying the foundations that will make many of the union-championed working practices unnecessary.

Comment and analysis

World news: Helicopter crash victim had young son

A British pilot who died in a mid-air helicopter crash in Australia that killed two other Britons was a young father who had recently married. Birmingham-born Ashley Jenkinson, 40, died in the accident at Sea World on Queensland’s Gold Coast on Monday when one helicopter, which was taking off, collided with another that was landing. Friends said Mr Jenkinson, who tied the knot with his wife Kosha in October last year, was “a top guy, top gun and the best dad” to his 17-month-old son Kaiden. The friends had frantically tried to get in touch with Mr Jenkinson, known as “Jenko”, when they heard of the crash, hoping he was not involved.

Tuesday interview

Schitt’s Creek star Emily Hampshire: ‘As a woman, I realised I’ve always felt I had to be sweet and quiet’

The actress on why the show’s inclusivity was key to its success, her new thriller with Martin Compston and identifying as a ‘workaholic’

Read the interview

Sport news: Raducanu’s new aggressive approach

Emma Raducanu’s latest coach Sebastian Sachs wore a slightly pained look at the side of the court as he watched her scrap to a three-set victory in her opening match of 2023. Was Sachs frowning because Raducanu needed four hours – including a couple of rain breaks – to dispatch 17-year-old Czech prodigy Linda Fruhvirtova? Or is that just the way he looks? We will find out over the coming weeks. Simon Briggs writes that Sachs should have been pleased with the way Raducanu applied herself here – and particularly with her aggressive intent. This was the main takeaway from her 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win: that she appeared to have taken a New Year’s Resolution to impose herself more.

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Business news: European interest rates rise warning

Interest rates in the eurozone will rise “significantly” in February and March, according to a European Central Bank chief, as the continent battles to bring down inflation. Governing Council member Martins Kazaks said that during the next two meetings of the bank “I think we can still do quite large steps”. It comes after the bank raised interest rates by 0.5 percentage points in December to 2.5pc, following the Bank of England which increased rates by the same amount to 3.5pc. We have all the latest on this story and others on our business live blog.

Tonight starts now

What a month without alcohol really does to your body | Countless studies have shown links between excessive drinking and cancers, heart failure and diabetes, among other chronic health issues. No wonder, then, that so many of us are reconsidering our drinking habits. But does a month of sobriety really make any difference to overall health – or are habitual drinkers simply whitewashing the problem, without any discernible benefits?

Three things for you

And finally… for this evening’s downtime

Britain’s 15 coolest neighbourhoods – and how to see them like a local | “Living like a local” has become one of the 21st century’s most unstoppable travel trends. Here we present 15 of our favourite urban neighbourhoods, nominated by locals and representing all four UK nations, along with the best places within them to eat, drink, shop and sleep.

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