Rail passengers in England were braced for more disruption as train drivers began another series of strikes on Friday, hitting major events including this weekend's Eurovision final.

Drivers and other staff from the Aslef union will also strike over pay on May 31 and June 3, the day of English football's showpiece FA Cup final at Wembley.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will walk out on Saturday, the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final in Liverpool.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan expressed regret for causing inconvenience to passengers, and said "we believe in investing in rail for the future of this country".

"But the blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand over this by their intransigence."

The UK has been hit by waves of strikes across many sectors as double-digit inflation causes real-term pay cuts across the board.

Aslef said the current pay rise offered by rail operators of four percent was "risible and obviously unacceptable".

The government called on unions to end the months-long dispute, and criticised them for the timing of the strikes.

"We have facilitated an offer which has been put to the leaders of the two trade unions and we're asking for them to put that offer to their members," rail minister Huw Merriman told Sky News.

"The unions have picked not just Eurovision but the FA Cup Final.

"So they either don't have a particularly good sporting or events calendar, or it has been done deliberately to try and ratchet up the disruption," he added.