THERE has been a major escalation of the Bus Éireann strike as rail services ground to a halt in Cork this morning.
The move was described as 'inevitable' by union chiefs in Cork.
The strike action has now spread to Dublin, bringing the capital to a standstill with the cancellation of DART, Dublin Bus and commuter rail services.
All Cork commuter services and Dublin-Cork trains were cancelled first thing this morning too as rail and bus workers commenced secondary picketing at a number of locations.
The pickets have since been lifted this morning with rail services set to resume by lunchtime today.
Irish Rail spokesperson Barry Kenny said the pickets were designed to have maximum impact, coming with no prior warning.
The unofficial strike action is the result of "frustration" among ordinary members, according to union representatives in Cork.
Bus drivers have now entered their eighth day of industrial action in response to cuts to pay and conditions which are essential to the future of the company according to senior management.
John Moloney, Cork bus driver and president of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), said the union has lost control of the situation.
"This is something that was predictable. We are on the eighth day of industrial action," he said.
"This is wildcat action from the ordinary members. Frustrations have boiled over.
"They were prepared to let the union handle the work for so long but the union has lost control of things now."
The escalation of the strike is sure to result in even greater scrutiny for Transport Minister Shane Ross, who has no choice but to intervene according to union reps.
"It has come inside the M50 now - Minister Ross can't ignore it any longer," Mr Moloney said.
"This is hurting the public, this is hurting workers and he can't sit in his ivory tower and ignore it anymore. His department would want to get real."
Mr Moloney said that the general public is still behind the bus workers in their action, despite the growing frustration shown by businesses and members of the public in Cork.
He said, "The public is still backing us, there has been no change there. We are in this for the long haul.
"We have put too much into it to back down now. What they have put in front of us is unsustainable."
Mr Moloney said that the rest of Ireland has been forgotten about by the government.
He called on rural politicians to step up and fight for a resolution to the current dispute.
"You can't walk through Dublin for all the infrastructural upgrades," he said.
"The Luas cross-city, the new Dublin Bus garage land and the DART underground, which will come back on the agenda.
"We are being told that the economy is improving and that there will be more reasons for people to travel. While Dublin prepares for it, the rest of Ireland is being cut. "
Among those set to be hit by the escalation in strike action are rugby fans headed for Thomond Park tomorrow evening.
Munster are set to take on Toulouse in a crunch Champions Cup quarter-final at 5.45pm with thousands expected to travel from Cork for the tie.