Train strikes latest: Passengers face misery on rush hour journey home amid Aslef walkout

Train strikes latest: Passengers face misery on rush hour journey home amid Aslef walkout

London commuters heading home on Friday are facing travel misery as train drivers stage their latest strike in a long-running pay dispute.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef have walked out at more than a dozen train operators, crippling services in and out of the capital on Friday.

The union has described a four per cent pay offer as “risible and obviously unacceptable”.

But rail minister Huw Merriman hit back on Friday, calling the government’s offer “fair and reasonable” as he urged Aslef and the RMT to put it to its members.

Southeastern and Southern are among the companies running no services, while no Heathrow or Gatwick Express trains will be operating either.

Travellers face further misery on Saturday when members of train workers union RMT stage their latest strike on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final in Liverpool.

Two more Aslef strikes are being held on May 31 and June 31 - the day of the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Which rail services are affected by strikes on Friday?

06:55 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

No trains will run on the following networks on Friday as rail workers stage a major walkout:

  • Avanti West Coast

  • Chiltern Railways

  • CrossCountry

  • East Midlands Railway

  • Gatwick Express

  • Great Northern

  • Heathrow Express

  • London Northwestern Railway

  • Southern

  • Southeastern

  • Thameslink

  • West Midlands Railway

  • TransPennine Express

  • Northern

A reduced service will also be running on Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, LNER, South Western Railway and Stansted Express.

Passengers are advised to check before travelling.

The Tube network and London Overground are not affected by Friday’s strikes.

Two days of strike action begins

06:46 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Rail passengers are facing fresh travel disruption on Friday as strikes begin at more than a dozen train operators - followed by a day of industrial action by other rail staff on Saturday.

The double-whammy of walkouts will first see members of the drivers’ union Aslef will walk out on Friday in a long-running dispute over pay.

We’ll be bringing you all you need to know throughout the day. Follow along for all the latest updates.

Aslef union chief accuses Government of acting in ‘bad faith’ during negotiations

07:09 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan has accused the Government of acting in “bad faith” during negotiations with the union.

He told BBC Breakfast: “At some point someone’s going to realise these are Government-led strikes, the Government are interfering their free collective bargaining process and they want unrealistic targets.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan, pictured on a previous strike day in January (PA)
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan, pictured on a previous strike day in January (PA)

“They sent out a deal before Christmas that we’d never seen, we’d never negotiated and tried to force it through by the back door in a total act of bad faith, and even then we came back from the table.

“We suspended all action in the hope of finding a way forward and then what happens? We sit down for three months in good faith, we agree a process that we’re going to undertake and then right at the end someone interferes, revokes it, and puts out a deal that would contain all the red lines we previously opposed in those talks, destining it to fail.

“I don’t think the Government and the companies want a solution.”

Union chief says he hasn’t seen ‘hide nor hair’ from Government since January

07:24 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan has accused the Government of not “engaging” with the union in negotiations to reach a deal and end strike action

“I haven’t seen the Government since January, one token meeting with the rail minister on January 6, and we’ve neither had hide nor hair from the Government that are meant to be facilitating and aiding these talk,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“They talk a good game, they don’t actually engage, they haven’t taken any ownership of this process as far as we’re concerned. The only people they talk to are the companies, they don’t talk to us.

“I can’t emphasise this enough: we do not want to be on strike. My members do not want to be losing money. We all have families that are impacted by this.

“We don’t want to be here, but after four years without a pay rise we feel that we have no choice but to articulate the problems that we’re having to try to get a resolution or do nothing.”

Rail minister urges union to consider pay offer

07:41 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Rail minister Huw Merriman has urged train drivers’ union Aslef and rail workers’ union the RMT to put the UK Government’s “fair and reasonable” pay offer to its members in a bid to avert further strikes.

The Conservative politician told Times Radio: “I’m very sorry for the inconvenience that passengers will have to bear. The sad reality of this situation is that there are offers on the table which have been given to both the train drivers’ union and the RMT.

“The leadership have chosen not to put those offers to their members and I feel if they did, there would be the opportunity for members to decide if they wish to take them.

“If you look at the train driver situation, they are paid just under £60,000. The pay offer would take them to £65,000 for a 35-hour week.

“We feel these are fair and reasonable, and we need to see those put to their members. So, it is not the case that there is not an offer there — the offer is there, we just need it put to members to see what they think about it.”

Mr Merriman pointed to RMT members working for Network Rail having already accepted a “very similar” Government pay offer, adding: “If that’s the case for someone who works on the tracks, why not their fellow workers who work on the trains? And that’s what we’re calling the RMT and Aslef’s leadership to do.”

Strike was not intended to clash with Eurovision, says union chief

07:49 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Mr Whelan hit out at claims that the strike was timed to clash with Eurovision.

“Strangely enough, I don’t really watch Eurovision, I didn’t know they had semi-finals,” he said, adding that “if we were targeting Eurovision we would have done Friday, Saturday and Sunday”.

Rail minister slams union for not letting members decide on pay offer

08:38 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Huw Merriman said he thought it was not democratic for the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to opt not to put the UK Government’s pay offer to its train worker members.

“The evidence for whether it is or isn’t fair and reasonable is down to the members,” the Tory rail minister told BBC Breakfast.

“If you look at what happened with the RMT, who are striking tomorrow, they put a similar offer to their members who work on Network Rail and that was accepted — 76% of those who voted accepted it.

“That would seem to indicate that the workforce will judge it as fair and reasonable, will take it because they want to move on.

“Why is it the case that an RMT member that works on the tracks gets a pay rise and gets the chance to vote on a pay rise, but fellow members who work on a train don’t get that opportunity?

“It doesn’t seem fair or democratic to me.”

Pictured: Aslef boss Mick Whelan on the picket line at Manchester Piccadilly

08:58 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Watch: Mick Whelan on Government’s ‘malicious’ lies about latest rail pay offer

09:20 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Pictured: Aslef members on the picket line outside Euston station

09:53 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

 (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
(Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Usually bustling London stations brought to standstill

10:04 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Photos show Waterloo East is among train stations closed this morning amid the Aslef strike action.

A person walks past Waterloo East train station, which is closed (REUTERS)
A person walks past Waterloo East train station, which is closed (REUTERS)

Meanwhile at usually-heaving Euston station, the concourse is quiet and departure boards show the only trains running are to Watford Junction.

Departure boards at Euston station (ES/John Dunne)
Departure boards at Euston station (ES/John Dunne)

Pictured: Passengers await trains at largely deserted King’s Cross

10:28 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

King’s Cross would typically be busy with travellers and tourists, but crowds are thin this morning, as photos show exasperated passengers staring up at largely empty departures boards.


‘We want to be recognised for our sacrifice,’ says driver on picket line

12:05 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Narinder Rai, who works for Great Western Railway, told the PA news agency that he wants train drivers to be “recognised for our sacrifice”.

Speaking from the Aslef picket line at Paddington station in central London, he said: “We haven’t had a pay rise for more than three years, some train operating companies haven’t had a pay rise for more than four years.

“We made a huge sacrifice during the pandemic, as key workers we feel like we deserve an increase now.

“The British public are with all the workers. All the key workers, we’re all on strike together, you have the doctors, you have the nurses, you have the bus drivers, you have the train drivers and the general rail industry. We just want to be recognised for our sacrifice.”

Narinder Rai (PA)
Narinder Rai (PA)

Mr Rai added: “There’s a lot of pressure on us, we’re trying to bring in better working conditions for ourselves and across the network.

“We’d like to see the Government come back to the negotiating table and actually put forward an offer that we can accept, right now it feels like they’re pushing us into a corner, on their part there seems to be no movement at all.

“Our officials have said they’re open to negotiations and willing to come back to the table at any time, instead they keep pushing us into these sorts of actions.”

Nationalising rail service shows Government ‘not dogmatic’ - minister

12:50 , Josh Salisbury

Elsewhere in the rail industry, the rail minister has said the decision to nationalise TransPennine Express (TPE) shows the Government is “not driven by dogma”.

Huw Merriman said he hoped the move would amount to a “reset moment" for the troubled franchise which has struggled through months of delays and cancellations.

But the Tory frontbencher said the decision to hand the service to the Operator of Last Resort was only temporary, with ministers “looking to return it back to the private sector".

Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced on Thursday that train services run by TransPennine would be nationalised.

The latest figures show that TPE, which is owned by FirstGroup, cancelled the equivalent of one in six services across most of March.

When else will train drivers be on strike?

13:37 , Josh Salisbury

Today’s walkout by train drivers at the Aslef union is not the only industrial action planned.

Train drivers at 15 companies will also be on strike on Wednesday 31 May, and Saturday 3 June 2023.

This will affect the following train companies:

  • Avanti West Coast

  • Chiltern Railways

  • CrossCountry

  • East Midlands Railway

  • Gatwick Express

  • Great Northern

  • Heathrow Express

  • London Northwestern Railway

  • Southern

  • Southeastern

  • Thameslink

  • West Midlands Railway

  • TransPennine Express

  • Northern

Are Tube strikes planned?

15:50 , Josh Salisbury

Today’s strikes affected members of the Aslef train drivers’ union, and does not affect the Tube.

However, the RMT Union is re-balloting its members for strike action on the London Underground, and its current mandate to undertake strike action ends in June.

If members agree to further action, there might be Tube strikes during the summer. Both the RMT and Aslef are fighting for a pay rise and improved working conditions.

Recently, Aslef dismissed what it called a “risible” offer of a four per cent pay rise.

Rail strikes ‘fail to have significant impact on footfall'

16:07 , Josh Salisbury

Today’s rail strikes have failed to have a significant impact on footfall, with footfall in central London actually increasing, according to an analysis.

It states that across all UK high streets footfall is down just -0.9% on last week and actually increased in Central London by 0.6%.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at MRI Springboard, which carried out the analysis, said: “It appears that today's rail strike has had a degree of impact with a drop of -0.7% from last Friday, which indicates that footfall has not bounced back from last Friday - the Friday before the Coronation bank holiday weekend - when footfall was -3.5% lower than the week before.

“It was clear that last Friday many employees took an extra day's leave as footfall was -11% lower than the week before in Central London and -7.8% lower according to the Springboard Central London "Back to the Office" benchmark which tracks activity in areas closest to office locations.

“Up to 12pm today footfall was higher in each of these areas, but only +0.6% higher across Central London indicating that many visitors to the capital stayed away.”

Why are Aslef drivers striking?

17:07 , Miriam Burrell

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan says there has been no meetings with the Government since January 6 despite continuing deadlock over the pay row.

He said drivers were prepared to continue taking industrial action until they had a decent pay offer.

Aslef has described the Rail Delivery Group’s offer of an 8 per cent wage rise over two years as “risible”.

The union has called further stoppages on May 31 and June 3, the day of the FA Cup final at Wembley.

The Rail Delivery Group said its offer “would have introduced overdue, common-sense improvements already in place in parts of the network, which would see more trains running on time for passengers. Sadly, this has been rejected.”

‘Sort it out’: Disgruntled commuters face disruption

17:16 , Miriam Burrell

Disgruntled commuters have vented their frustrations about Friday and Saturday’s travel disruption.

One passenger, Tony Ioec, said he spent four hours travelling in and out of London.

“Train strike really did one on the working people of London today,” he wrote on Twitter.

@MayorofLondon @TfL what ever is happening. Sort it out. The roads are not big enough for everyone to be moving. End off. Half my day travelling!”

Another Twitter user said their Saturday plans had been ruined.

“Train strikes this weekend are preventing me from attending an event that I’ve been looking forward to for six months, and I am ANGRY. At the Government.”

Live coverage ends

21:52 , Miriam Burrell

That’s all for our live coverage today.

Please check back in tomorrow.