ail minister Huw Merriman on Friday slammed train strikes for “defying all logic to heap more misery on the travelling public”.
He accused the RMT and ASLEF unions of a “coordinated attempt to disrupt people’s summer plans”.
Speaking to The Standard, he said: “Fans will be spending this weekend cheering on their team at Wembley, roaring on a winner at Epsom, or singing along to Beyoncé at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“To them, another round of industrial action will only strike a depressing chord by making their journeys more difficult.”
He added: “It defies all logic to heap more misery on the travelling public at a time where we need to get more people back on our trains.
“Our rail industry’s long-term future relies on the confidence of its passengers, but the unions’ strike action is putting that at risk.”
He urged the unions to put the pay offer from the train companies to their members.
Londoners are facing two days of travel misery from Friday as members of the RMT union walk out in the long-running pay dispute.
Around half of the network will shut down, with around 50 per cent of normal services running.
The strikes will affect services on 15 train companies, with trains due to start later and finish much earlier than usual – typically between 7.30am and 6.30pm. Some services will not run at all.
Aslef also started an overtime ban from Wednesday, which could affect some services in and out of the capital.
Passengers are being advised to plan ahead and check the times of first and last trains.
It will likely cause disruption to football fans attempting to travel to London for the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley.
The strike action will also likely affect more than 100,000 people travelling to the annual Epsom Derby on Saturday as well as fans travelling to Beyonce’s Renaissance world tour concert at Tottenham’s stadium.
The affected services are:
Avanti West Coast; c2c (2 June only); Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Gatwick Express; Great Northern; Great Western Railway; Greater Anglia; Heathrow Express; Island Line; LNER; London Northwestern Railway; Northern; South Western Railway; Southeastern; Southern; Stansted Express; Thameslink; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Railway.
In a message to members ahead of Friday’s strike, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the whole rail industry remained “committed” to the long-running dispute.
He said: “My message to you ahead of Friday’s strike action is that your efforts and commitment are having an effect and making a difference in this dispute.
“That’s why we must continue to stand firm in the strike action this Friday and in the future to get a deal for our members. So we must keep going.”
He called upon the Rail Delivery Group, the industry body representing train operating companies, to “provide us with proposals that we can develop towards a settlement.”
But an RDG spokesperson said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect our passengers’ daily commute, but will also impact those travelling from to the FA Cup final and other events across the country, causing disappointment and frustration for tens of thousands of people.
“It will also inconvenience families who have been looking forward to and have planned their half-term holidays.
“It will also further burden our people who have already lost thousands of pounds at a time of financial strain.”
The two unions have claimed that the Government has hamstrung train operating companies from offering a fair deal on pay.
Ministers have strenuously denied this and say there is a reasonable offer on the table which unions should put to their members.