‘Through running’ on Elizabeth line to be disrupted by strikes after 1 day

The launch of “through running” on the Elizabeth line will have to be temporarily curtailed after only a day because of a series of rail strikes, Transport for London has revealed.

It came as spectators planning to attend two of the capital’s biggest fireworks displays – at Alexandra Palace and Battersea Park – were warned there would be no trains to the nearest stations on Saturday, November 5.

TfL is due to launch the first direct trains on the £20bn line from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield to and from central London on Sunday November 6 – meaning passengers will no longer need to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street.

But the landmark moment – which will also see the Elizabeth line launch a full, seven days a week service – is being blighted by action being taken on the national railways by the RMT union.

RMT members at Network Rail – including signallers - are walking out on Saturday November 5, Monday November 7 and Wednesday November 9 in their ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions. Unionised staff at 14 train firms will join the dispute on November 5 and 9.

TfL says the impact of the strike will force it to abandon through running on November 7 and 9 and revert to the line operating as three separate railways – meaning passengers seeking to go beyond its core central London route will again have to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street.

Other rail firms have also warned of disruption, with the UK’s biggest operator GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway), which operates Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, advising passengers not to use its trains to get to firework displays on November 5.

There will be further misery for Londoners on Thursday November 10 when RMT’s 10,000 workers on the London Underground go on strike over pensions and the axing of station staff posts – a move expected to effectively shut the Tube for the day.

RMT members on the London Overground will also take action next Thursday.

TfL said in relation to the Elizabeth line: “Due to a national rail strike on Saturday 5, Monday 7 and Wednesday 9 November, the line will have reduced operating hours and revert to running as three separate railways - from Paddington to Abbey Wood, Liverpool Street to Shenfield, and Reading/Heathrow to Paddington - as sections of that railway rely on Network Rail signalling staff.”

GTR advised its passengers only to travel if “absolutely necessary” on the three rail strike days, when only about 20 per cent of its trains are expected to run. There will also be a knock-on impact on each day following a strike day.

It said that “neither Battersea nor Alexandra Palace will be served past 3pm on Saturday”.

Angie Doll, chief operating officer at GTR, said: “On Saturday, people may be considering taking the train to fireworks celebrations but the service will end early and they won’t be able to get back.

“In fact, there will be disruption all the way through to Thursday morning and schoolchildren in particular will be affected as services will start much later in the morning every day.”

South Western Railway said its trains would also be affected on bonfire night.

SWR performance and planning director Steve Tyler said: “We appreciate that customers will be eager to enjoy the fireworks for Guy Fawkes Night, but last trains for the day will depart early at around 1700 and will be very busy.”

It comes as Croydon tramlink drivers belonging to Aslef are about to be re-balloted to allow further walkouts in their dispute over pay – with a “lengthy shut down” before Christmas on the cards.

Croydon tram drivers will be able to resume their strikes from December 21 if Aslef members, who have already walked out six times this year, vote to continue action.

Finn Brennan, Aslef district organiser for London, said operator FirstGroup had offered two per cent for last year and 4.75 per cent for this year, both below the rate of inflation.