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Rail strikes to cripple train services on Friday

Rail strikes to cripple train services on Friday

Train services will be crippled on Friday because of another strike by drivers in the long-running dispute over pay.

Services will be severely affected, starting later and finishing earlier than usual, with some areas having no trains all day.

The dispute started over a year ago and remains deadlocked, with no talks planned and no sign of a breakthrough.

Members of the drivers union Aslef will also ban overtime on Saturday, coinciding with a strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in its dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Both unions blame the Government for blocking any chance of a deal by refusing to allow train operators to make an offer they can recommend to their members.

Ministers deny they are intervening in the dispute.

Aslef said Friday’s strike will force companies to cancel services across the country and the ban on overtime will “seriously disrupt” the network as the union maintains that none of the train companies employ enough drivers to provide a proper service without drivers working on their days off.

The 16 companies affected include: Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; c2c; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Greater Anglia; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; Great Western Railway; Island Line; LNER; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “We don’t want to take this action but the train companies, and the Government which stands behind them, have forced us into this place because they refuse to sit down and talk to us and have not made a fair and sensible pay offer to train drivers who have not had one for four years – since 2019 – while prices have soared in that time by more than 12%.

“The Government appears happy to let passengers – and businesses – suffer in the mistaken belief that they can bully us into submission. They don’t care about passengers – or Britain’s railway – but they will not break us.

“Train drivers at these companies have not had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – while inflation has rocketed. We haven’t heard a word from the employers – we haven’t had a meeting, a phone call, a text message, or an email – since Wednesday April 26, and we haven’t had any contact with the Government since Friday January 6.

“This shows how the contempt in which the companies, and the Government, hold passengers and staff and public transport in Britain.

“They are happy to let this drift on and on, but we are determined to get a fair pay rise for men and women who haven’t had one for four years while inflation has reached double figures. Our members, perfectly reasonably, want to be able to buy now what they could buy back in 2019.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Further strike action by the Aslef leadership is unnecessary and will cause more disruption to passengers looking to enjoy the end of the summer holidays.

“The union leadership has its head in the sand and refuses to put our fair and reasonable offer to their members. The offer would increase the average driver base salary for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 to nearly £65,000 by the end of 2023.

“We want to give our staff a pay increase, but it has always been linked to implementing necessary, sensible reforms that would enhance services for our customers.

“We urge the Aslef leadership to acknowledge the substantial financial challenges facing the rail industry and work with us to achieve a more dependable and robust railway system for the future.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “After taxpayers supported rail workers throughout the pandemic, it’s frustrating to see both Aslef and RMT coordinate their strikes with the aim of causing as much disruption as possible on the last weekend of the summer holidays.

“There remains fair and reasonable offers on the table for both unions, one which would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 and one which RMT members working for Network Rail accepted months ago. Continued industrial action is disappointing and delays the reforms that would ultimately benefit passengers, rail workers and taxpayers.”

– Friday’s strike coincides with the final day of consultation on controversial plans to close most railway ticket offices, which has sparked hundreds of thousands of responses from the public.