The RMT union has accused ministers of going missing instead of holding further talks to avert fresh rail strikes starting on Christmas Eve.
Passengers hoping to travel by train on Saturday face further disruption and cancellations with most services ending by 3pm, while some routes will not operate at all.
Thousands of members of the RMT union at Network Rail will strike from 6pm on 24 December until 6am on 27 December.
The union said ministers were “missing” and “abdicating responsibility”, with none of the expected further talks having taken place since the union and industry leaders met with the rail minister, Huw Merriman, last week.
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, added: “The union remains available for talks to resolve this dispute. But until the government gives the rail industry a mandate to come to a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and conditions of work, our industrial campaign will continue into the new year, if necessary.”
The union said it had settled pay deals with other employers including ScotRail, Transport for Wales, Eurostar and Merseyrail, with increases worth between 6% and 10%.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “After two years of virtual Christmases, the British public deserve better than to have their festive celebrations impacted by strikes.”
The last intercity departures on many long-distance trains will be in the morning of 24 December, while some routes will not operate at all. Ongoing industrial action short of a strike at train operators, including an overtime ban, will also contribute to severe disruption in parts of the railway.
The RMT had said it was not targeting Christmas travel through the strike, as no passenger trains are normally scheduled to run over the Christmas bank holidays, bar a few isolated Boxing Day services. Those operators that had planned trains for 26 December – Eurostar, Merseyrail and Stansted Express – have cancelled all services.
However, the rail industry said that the timings – with no staff signing on for shifts after 6pm on Christmas Eve – meant it could not be certain of where disruption would occur, and all passenger trains would need to be in depots before the action started.
The last trains to Edinburgh and Newcastle from London will leave at 11am, while those travelling the other way from Scotland to the capital will need to leave by 8am. No direct trains will run between London and Nottingham or Sheffield, while last trains either way between Manchester and Liverpool will leave at about 2pm.