Rail strikes: passengers face weekend of disruption in England

Rail passengers face severe disruption this weekend as two 24-hour strikes by train drivers from different companies halt many long-distance routes.

Saturday’s strikes by members of the Aslef union at LNER and East Midlands kick off a series of similar actions running until Friday, while an overtime ban across all operators in England will also hit services nationwide until next weekend. The action will also affect some cross-border services into Scotland and Wales.

No trains will run at all on East Midlands, while LNER will have a limited service. LNER trains will also not run in and out of London on Sunday because of engineering works.

Drivers at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink and West Midlands trains will strike on Sunday, with no trains at all running on their routes.

Further 24-hour strikes by drivers will follow at C2C and Greater Anglia on Tuesday; Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express and SouthWestern on Wednesday; at CrossCountry and GWR on Thursday; and at Northern and TransPennine Express next Friday.

The industrial action comes as part of the long-running pay dispute, with no signs of either the Aslef union or the rail industry and ministers budging. Talks have not been held since an offer of two 4% annual increases for 2022 and 2023, with changes to working conditions, was rejected in April.

Aslef announced on Friday that its members had voted overwhelmingly to renew the mandate for strike action for another six months.

The union’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “We are in this for the long haul. Our members – who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now – are determined that the train companies – and the Tory government that stands behind them – do the right thing.

“The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out. The bosses at the train companies – as well as Tory MPs and government ministers – have had increases in pay. It’s unrealistic – and unfair – to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, said the result of the ballot was “disappointing”, adding: “Strikes called by the Aslef leadership continue to result in huge disruption for our customers, staff and the hospitality industry.

“Our priority is finding a fair and affordable way through this dispute, so we can end the disruption to our passengers, give our people a pay rise and return the industry to a sustainable footing at a time when taxpayers are contributing an extra £54m a week to keep services running post-Covid. We have always been clear that we remain open to constructive dialogue with Aslef to find a resolution, and that is still the case.”