Train passengers are being hit by major disruption due to the largest strike by rail workers for a generation.

Usually busy stations like London Euston were nearly deserted except for picket lines by union members early today (June 21), with the start of services delayed until 7.30am.

Even then only a fifth of services will run, half of lines will remain closed, and the network will be shut down at 6.30pm.

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.

Last-ditch talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.

Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out.

Strikes are also planned for Thursday and Saturday.

London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines today due to a walk out by workers.

Pupils and parents are being urged to make an alternative plan for getting to school for A-level and GCSE exams.

Motorists were warned to expect a surge in traffic as train passengers switch to road transport.

The AA predicted that the worst affected roads are likely to be main motorway arteries, as well as rural and suburban areas.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said Network Rail had offered a 2 per cent pay rise with the possibility of a further 1pc later dependent on efficiency savings.

He claims Network Rail has “escalated” the dispute during talks yesterday (June 10), by issuing a letter saying redundancies will start from July 1.

He warned the dispute could continue for months, adding: “The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.

“At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.”

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.