Rail passengers are facing travel disruption on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final as RMT union members strike again in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
Fourteen train companies are affected, with many running limited services.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the strikes were “cynically targeting” the final, taking place in Liverpool on Saturday night.
But the RMT denies planning strikes to coincide with the event in Liverpool.
It said Saturday was chosen for a strike as it was the last date allowed under employment laws.
Its general secretary Mick Lynch said he was sorry for the disruption but added that people have had “plenty of time” to make alternative travel arrangements, with the union having given more than two weeks’ notice.
The government says the RMT has turned down a “fair and reasonable” pay offer, but the union denies this.
Train drivers who are part of a different union, Aslef, went on strike on Friday, with some parts of England having no trains all day. It also denies planning strikes to impact Eurovision.
Merseyrail, which operates trains around Liverpool, said it was unaffected by Saturday’s strikes and would run late night services.
But most train companies travelling to and from Liverpool have a limited service as a result of the strike action, according to National Rail.
National Express said it had added 33 extra services to Liverpool to help fans get to Eurovision.
Train companies have warned there will be “little or no services” across large areas of the network and said passengers should be prepared for disruption on the days immediately after the strikes.
Speaking at a picket line outside London Euston station, Mr Lynch said today was the last Saturday of the union’s six-month mandate in which it could strike.
He then told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “We’ve not targeted Wembley or Liverpool or any of the activities that people get up to” – a reference to both Eurovision and to the football National League play-off final at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.
“There isn’t a day where people aren’t undertaking important activities, in business life or personal life.
“We don’t set the date of Eurovision. We don’t set the anti-trade union laws that require us to have a mandate that expires after six months.”
He said the union “wouldn’t target a cup final”, but did not rule out considering strikes taking place on 3 June, when the men’s FA Cup Final will be held.
Future strike dates could be announced as early as next week, he said, adding that the union was available to meet with the government and employers at any time to try to agree a deal.
He has written to the transport secretary calling for an special summit between ministers, train companies and unions to end chaos on the railways.