THREE more 48-hour strikes have been scheduled over the coming weeks.

If unions and National Express fail to settle the dispute, further strikes will take place on August 6 and 7, August 13 and 14, as well as August 20 and 21.

The first day of the industrial action yesterday caused chaos for thousands of commuters across south Essex.

Peter Slattery, chairman of Southend Rail Travellers’ Association, said: “I think it’s excessive. None of us are happy with work at the moment in terms of wages, but it’s the customers who suffer.

“You can understand one day, but when they are planning two days with another three strikes coming it’s affecting everyone’s day-to-day travel and we’re all struggling to keep our jobs.”

The strike took place as National Express revealed it slumped into the red in the first six months of the year as it lost more than £20million on its soon-to-be nationalised East Coast rail line.

Talks between the unions and National Express, earlier this week, failed to break the deadlock.

The RMT says National Express made nearly half a billion in profits from their rail operations in the past ten years, while receiving nearly £2.5billion in public subsidies over the same period.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: “This strike has been caused by greedy National Express bosses who have soaked up £2.5billion in taxpayer subsidies in the past ten years and which has milked every penny out of this franchise while offering their staff peanuts this year.

“Despite making half a billion in profits out of their workforce and the travelling public over the past ten years, today National Express has resorted to pleading poverty.

“RMT wants this company off the tracks as soon as possible with all of their franchises returned to public ownership.”

Mr Crow added that although he had heard rumours of fresh talks next week from the picket lines the RMT had not yet been formally approached.

Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia, called the strikes unnecessary and apologised to customers.

He said: “The unions’ demands are totally unrealistic, especially in this current economic climate.

“We have offered salary increases above the rate of inflation, and remain available at any time for discussions to reach a sensible, affordable and fair agreement.”

National Express claimed Aslef wanted a minimum pay increase of 2.5 per cent, a four day working week for all its members and a 4 per cent increase in the number of train drivers, but the union denied it made these demands.