The biggest rail strike in a generation caused severe disruptions on Tuesday, with more cancellations happening on Wednesday.
Many passengers’ journeys took several hours longer than usual, while those who chose to travel by car were greeted by an increase in traffic.
Only a fifth of the trains ran on Tuesday and half of all lines were closed.
The last trains were much earlier than usual, like London Euston to Glasgow at 1.30pm and London King’s Cross to Edinburgh at 2pm.
The network was closed at 18:30.
The chaos will continue on Wednesday, with only 60% of trains running, mainly due to the delay in starting services as signalers and control room staff are not doing night shifts.
Some 40,000 members of Rede Ferroviária’s Ferroviário, Marítimo e Transporte (RMT) union and 13 train operators left on Tuesday in a fierce dispute over wages, jobs and conditions.
Much of Britain had no passenger trains all day, including most of Scotland and Wales, all of Cornwall and Dorset and places like Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Cabinet meeting that the reforms are vital for the rail industry and passengers.
He said: “I say this for the country as a whole, we need to prepare to stay the course.
“To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements to the way we operate our railroads are in the interests of the traveling public, they will help reduce costs for ticket payers across the country.”
Usually busy stations like London Euston and Birmingham New Street were mostly deserted except for union picket lines.
Many people worked from home instead of traveling to offices.
Retail analysts Springboard said traffic in central London was down 27% last Tuesday, while city centers outside the capital saw an 11% reduction.
Those who had to travel faced skeletal train schedules and increased traffic on the roads.
Electrical engineer Harry Charles said his typical 10-minute commute to work by train to London Bridge took 90 minutes.
The 30-year-old, from Lewisham, south east London, said: “Obviously I had to get up early and left the house at 6am.
“I am with the employees who are on strike because their money is not going up and the cost of everything is going up.
“The strike caused a lot of problems for people, but everyone wants to be able to eat.”
At Liverpool Lime Street station, couple Sheila and Steve, who declined to give their last name, were supposed to travel to London for a theater trip that costs £500.
Steve said: “The 8:47 am train has been canceled and we are just keeping our fingers crossed for the next one at 9:47.
“I think they have the right to attack, but that seems a little unfair to other people.”
At Birmingham New Street station, some would-be commuters and commuters were trying to work out their travel plans, looking at the timetables on their phones and the departure board in the main concourse.
Carol Hutchinson, who was heading back to the Lake District after getting 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 what appeared to be one of the few trains still running.
“I think it’s just going to stand… I’m not even sure I’m going to keep my suitcase,” she said.
London Underground services have also been suspended on the vast majority of lines due to a worker stoppage.
Figures published by location technology company TomTom show that the level of congestion on the roads at 11 am was higher than at the same time last week in several cities.
In London, congestion levels have increased from 38%% on June 14th to 51% today.
Other places with the worst traffic included Cardiff (from 24% to 29%), Liverpool (from 24% to 30%), Manchester (from 27% to 34%) and Newcastle (from 18% to 20%).
The numbers represent the proportion of additional time required for travel compared to free-flowing conditions.
There were also severe queues in the outer London sections of the M1, M4, A4 and A40.
People trying to move around the capital faced long lines for buses.
Uber has raised its prices amid a surge in demand, with a three-mile trip from Paddington to King’s Cross estimated to be £27 at 8:45am.
Strikes are also planned for Thursday and Saturday.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer is considering possible disciplinary action after several MPs from his party joined picket lines outside the stations.
He reportedly ordered leaders not to do so, as the Conservatives have tried to use the fight to claim that Labor is on the side of the striking workers who caused the chaos.
Students and parents were being urged to make an alternate plan to get to school for the A-level and GCSE exams.
RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch warned that the dispute could continue for months.
The union has been invited by Network Rail to participate in formal consultation talks next month on the introduction of “modern work practices”.
Network Rail employee Tim Shoveller said the changes will mean “dumping outdated work practices and introducing new technology”.
He added: “We expect this to reduce roles by around 1,800, the vast majority of whom will be lost through voluntary redundancy and natural waste.”