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Passengers face travel disruption amid fresh wave of rail strikes

Travellers face further rail disruption as a series of 24-hour strikes kick off over the weekend.

Members of the train drivers union Aslef at East Midlands Railway and LNER will walk out on Saturday over a long-running pay dispute. Many long-distance rail routes are expected to be halted.

No trains will run on East Midlands today; LNER will have a very limited service. Drivers at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink and West Midlands strike tomorrow, with no trains running.

Train drivers across England started a week-long overtime ban on Friday which is expected to disrupt services.

It comes after Aslef members voted overwhelmingly to continue industrial action for the next six months.

East Midlands Railway said it will not operate services on any of its routes on Saturday, while the overtime ban may cause some late notice cancellations and changes to train times.

Passengers were advised to check before travelling.

LNER said it will run a reduced timetable between Edinburgh and London and Leeds and London on Saturday.

Due to planned engineering work on Sunday, there will be no trains to or from London King’s Cross.

Strikes against other train operators will be held on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have accepted a deal to resolve their dispute over pay and conditions but the Aslef row is deadlocked.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said he has not had any talks with employers since April, and has not met Transport Secretary Mark Harper since last December.

“We are in this for the long haul. Our members have not had a pay rise for nearly five years.

“Train drivers are fed up and frustrated that their employers failed to negotiate in good faith.

“These are key workers who kept the country moving throughout the pandemic. They are simply asking for a fair and decent deal.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said: “This unnecessary and avoidable industry action called by the Aslef leadership has been targeted to disrupt customers and businesses ahead of the vital festive period.

“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.

“As the level of service varies across the country our advice is to check before you travel.”

The RDG said the latest offer of an 8 per cent pay increase over two years would take average salaries from almost £60,000 a year to almost £65,000.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “Following RMT members voting to overwhelmingly accept the train operators’ pay offer, Aslef is now not just the only rail union still striking but the only union not to even put an offer to its members.

“They are instead choosing to cause more misery for passengers and the hospitality sector this festive period.

“The fair and reasonable offer that’s long been on the table would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 for a 35-hour, four-day week.

“Aslef’s leadership should follow in the footsteps of all the other rail unions by doing the right thing and giving their members a say on that offer.”