London commuters set for more strike misery but good news about Elizabeth line
Rail commuters faced a day of delays and disruption ahead of another walkout by train drivers on Friday– but were boosted by the suspension of strike action on the Elizabeth line.
The central section of the “Lizzie line” was shut for 24 hours on January 12 - the first time since it was opened by the Queen last May – when members of the TSSA, Prospect and the RMT unions walked out over pay and pensions.
But Transport for London commissioner Andy Lord revealed that progress had been made in negotiations that had enabled the unions to call off further action.
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The line has become the best-used railway in the country, carrying about 600,000 passengers on weekdays. Yesterday it hit the milestone of 100m journeys, little over eight months since it started running under central London.
Mr Lord said that TfL had been unable to increase “base” rates of pay for Elizabeth line managers. But a “benchmarking” review of roles at Rail for London Infrastructure, the TfL subsidiary that oversees the line, could lead to staff being moved onto higher pay bands.
The TSSA union said it had agreed to suspend action for a month while discussions continued. TSSA organiser Mel Taylor said the negotiations were “significant and serious” and added: “The progress made since the strike just goes to show the power of our collective action, and in the days since we have seen more people becoming members of our TSSA family.
“The company should take note however, that we reserve the right to reissue our notice to take action at any time with 14 days’ notice.”
Action by Aslef, which is seeking a pay deal that recognises the cost of living crisis, will affect 14 train firms on Friday. No services are expected to run on Southeastern, Thameslink and Southern, all key commuter routes.
This morning about one in seven trains across the UK rail network was late, very late (delayed by more than 30 minutes) or cancelled, according to the trains.im website. Network Rail expected about 80 to 85 per cent of trains to run.
TfL has announced a two-year pay deal worth 8.8 per cent for white collar staff - four per cent for 2022 and 4.4 per cent for this year. This excludes London Underground staf, who received an eight per cent rise last April.
Mr Lord said the offer, which is being implemented despite not all unions having agreed, was “reasonable” in the context of TfL’s post-pandemic financial challenges.
Fiona Brunskill, interim chief people officer at TfL, said: “While the offer did not receive unanimous support, it has been agreed by two of our workplace unions.
“The amount we can offer for pay increases has been a key talking point throughout.
“We’re aware some colleagues would have liked to see this offer increased further, but unfortunately this was the best offer we could make to comply with our funding deal and the attached financial sustainability commitments.”