For almost two years now rail passengers have had to face regular, but intermittent, disruption to their travel thanks to disputes between trades unions and the government.

These disputes started in the spring of 2022 when the RMT called the first strikes over pay and now the drivers' union ASLEF is continuing its dispute.

More action has been called for the first week of May which will mean most trains on Greater Anglia won't run on the day after the May Day bank holiday - and there could be minor disruption from a work to rule on other days.

The vast majority of passengers have now come to see this kind of disruption as a hazard of using the trains. 

They make their arrangements around them. Commuters chose days when there are strikes to work from home if they can or find less convenient ways of reaching work.

Where it does matter is making long-term plans. If you want to go on holiday by train - or catch a train to the airport.

We're encouraged to book in advance to get the best prices on long-distance rail trips - but is it safe to do that if you don't know whether your trains are going to be affected on a given date two months away?

What is irritating is that the two parties to this dispute - the government and the ASLEF leadership - don't appear to have any concern for the passengers. 

They're only interested in slagging off their opponents in public and won't talk together unless certain pre-conditions are met which they know are impossible!

Frankly I don't care that the train drivers earn nearly twice the average salary in this country or how much the government is paying in subsidies.

I do care that the rail industry has not fully recovered from the pandemic - and that none of the discussions about its future shape have reached anything like a conclusion as ministers and rail managers have been so tied up with strike planning over the last two years.

The fact is the rail industry was changed for ever by the pandemic. The seemingly-endless growth in commuting came to an end but the number of people wanting to travel for leisure or business has increased.

It has not, however, replaced all the lost commuters - and is unlikely to do so.

That means a new model of running the railways will be needed and planning for that seems to have been relegated to the back of the queue while all attention is diverted to fire-fighting to diminish the impact of strikes.

To an outsider it looks as if ASLEF boss Mick Whelan wants to keep the strikes going to show the world (and his supporters) what a good job he is doing by giving an unpopular Tory government a bloody nose.

And Transport Secretary Mark Harper wants to keep the strikes going to show to the world (and his supporters) what a good job be is doing by fighting left-wingers in the trade union movement.

A little bit of me wants to scoop both of them up into a helicopter with a two-man tent and dump them on to the platform at Sealand, seven miles off Felixstowe, and tell them they won't be brought back to civilisation until they've grown up and come up with a deal to end this wretched dispute!

In the real world, however, it looks as if both sides are just dug in until the next election with the intermittent industrial action continuing until a new government is elected.

That means this uncertainty will continue for a third summer - and passengers will just continue to be collateral damage in this frankly rather childish stand-off between two political ideologies.

The opinions expressed in this column are the personal views of Paul Geater and do not necessarily reflect views held by this newspaper, its sister publications or its owner and publisher Newsquest Media Group Ltd.