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Train strikes: Fresh rail chaos as Aslef drivers begin overtime ban before fresh walkouts

Rail passengers are being warned to expect disruption in the coming days because of strikes and an overtime ban by train drivers in their long-running dispute over pay.

Members of Aslef at 16 train operating companies will refuse to work overtime from Friday until December 9 and will stage a series of strikes between December 2 and 8.

Train companies said they will operate as many trains as possible but there will be wide regional variations, with some operators running no services at all on strike days.

Services that are running will start later and finish much earlier than usual – typically running between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

It is likely that services on some lines will be affected on the evening before and morning after each strike between December 2 and 8 because much of the rolling stock will not be in the right depots.

It comes after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union voted to accept a deal to end their long-running dispute over pay and conditions.Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “We are going on strike again not to inconvenience passengers, but to express our disgust at the intransigence of this Government, and the bad faith shown by the private companies which employ us.

It is clear that the Tory Government does not want to resolve this dispute

Mick Whelan, Aslef

“It is clear that the Tory Government does not want to resolve this dispute. We haven’t had a meeting with Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, since December 2022.

“We haven’t had a meeting with Huw Merriman, the rail minister, since January this year, and we haven’t heard from the employers since April.

“We are prepared to come to the table and negotiate but the train operating companies and the Tories that stand behind them are not.

“This is turning into a political, rather than an industrial, dispute. They simply can’t be bothered. They are happy to see this dispute rumble on, for passengers and businesses to suffer, and to drive Britain’s railways – once the envy of the world – into a managed decline.”

Mr Whelan said that Aslef members remained solidly behind the campaign of industrial action after not having had a pay rise for almost five years.

Aslef said the rolling programme of one-day strikes and overtime ban was designed to “ratchet up the pressure” on the train operators (TOCs) and the Government.

“We are determined to win this dispute and get a significant pay rise for train drivers who have not had an increase since 2019 while the cost of living, in that time, has soared.

“Our strikes have forced TOCs to cancel services and the ban on overtime has seriously disrupted the network as none of the train companies employs enough drivers to provide a proper service – the service they have promised passengers and businesses they will deliver – without asking drivers to work their rest days.”

Aslef members will strike at East Midlands Railway and LNER on Saturday December 2; at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern Thameslink, and West Midlands Trains on Sunday December 3; at C2C and Greater Anglia on Tuesday December 5; at Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway and Island Line on Wednesday December 6; at CrossCountry and Great Western Railway on Thursday December 7 and at Northern and TransPennine on Friday December 8.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “This unnecessary and avoidable industrial action called by the Aslef leadership has been targeted to disrupt customers and businesses ahead of the vital festive period, where people will be attending events and catching up with friends and loved ones.

“It will also inflict further damage on an industry that is receiving up to an additional £175 million a month in taxpayer cash to keep services running, following the Covid downturn.

“The Aslef leadership are blocking a fair and affordable offer made by industry in the spring which would take average driver base salaries for a four-day week from £60,000 to nearly £65,000. We urge them to put it to its members, give Christmas back to our customers, and end this damaging industrial dispute.”