Millions of people are suffering disruption from rail strikes with 80% of trains cancelled and a spike in road congestion.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the public to “stay the course” after around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Only a fifth of trains are running on Tuesday and half of all lines are closed.
Services are generally restricted to main lines, but even those are only open between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
Last trains will be much earlier than normal, such as London Euston to Glasgow at 1.30pm, London King’s Cross to Edinburgh at 2pm and London Paddington to Cardiff at 4.27pm.
Much of Britain will have no passenger trains for the entire day, including most of Scotland and Wales, the whole of Cornwall and Dorset, and places such as Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester.
Usually busy stations such as London Euston and London Paddington are nearly deserted except for union picket lines.
Many people are believed to be working from home rather than travelling to offices.
Those forced to travel are having to contend with skeleton train timetables and increased traffic on the roads.
Electrical engineer Harry Charles said his normal 10-minute journey to work by train to London Bridge took him 90 minutes.
The 30-year-old, from Lewisham, south-east London, said: “Obviously I had to wake up early and left my house at 6am.
“I am with the employees who are striking because their money is not going up and the cost of everything is rising.
“The strike has caused a lot of hassle for people but everyone wants be able to eat.”
At Liverpool Lime Street station, couple Sheila and Steve, who did not want to give their last name, were due to travel to London for a theatre trip costing £500.
Steve said: “The 8.47am train has been cancelled and we’re just keeping our fingers crossed for the next one at 9.47am.
“I think they have got the right to strike but this seems a bit unfair on other people.”
At Birmingham New Street station, a few would-be passengers and commuters were trying to work out their travel plans, gazing at timetables on their phones and the departures board on the main concourse.
Carol Hutchinson, who was on her way back to the Lake District after coming off a six-hour flight from Egypt, landed in the UK to find her direct train from Birmingham International station cancelled.
Having made her way to New Street, she was waiting to board, with her luggage, what appeared to be one of the few trains still running.
“I think it’s going to be standing room only… I’m not even sure I’ll get on with my suitcase,” she said.
Mr Johnson told a meeting of the Cabinet that reforms are vital for the rail industry and those who work in it.
He said: “I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course.
“To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.”
Journey planning website National Rail Enquiries stopped working for around half an hour, but the cause of the problem is believed to be unrelated to the strike.
London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines today due to a walkout by workers.
Figures published by location technology firm TomTom show the level of road congestion at 8am was higher than the same time last week in several cities.
In London, congestion levels increased from 77% on June 14 to 98% today.
Other locations with worse traffic included Hull (from 55% to 59%), Liverpool (from 48% to 55%) and Newcastle (from 50% to 57%).
The figures represent the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.
There were also severe queues on outer London sections of the M1, M4, A4 and A40.
People trying to travel around the capital faced long queues for buses.
Uber hiked its prices amid a spike in demand, with a three-mile journey from Paddington to King’s Cross estimated to cost £27 at 8.45am.
Strikes are also planned for Thursday and Saturday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is considering possible disciplinary action after several of his party’s MPs joined picket lines outside stations.
He reportedly ordered frontbenchers not to do that as the Conservatives have sought to use the row to claim Labour is on the side of the striking workers who have caused chaos.
Pupils and parents are being urged to make an alternative plan for getting to school for A-level and GCSE exams.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch warned that the dispute could continue for months, adding: “It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4 billion of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.”
The Department for Transport disputed Mr Lynch’s clams, adding that it has cost taxpayers about £600 per household to keep the railway running during the coronavirus pandemic.