Train strikes latest: Train drivers offered 4% pay rise for two years in bid to end Aslef action

Rail passengers are facing a fourth consecutive day of travel disruption on Friday as RMT union members launch a fresh 48-hour walkout.

The strike at Network Rail and 14 train operators means only around 20% of normal services will run with trains starting later and finishing earlier.

The walkout is again hitting key TfL services in London with severe delays to Elizabeth Line trains running between Paddington and Reading and Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

The London Overground, Circle, Hammersmith & City, and District lines are also severely affected while the Bakerloo line and Overground are part suspended.

Meanwhile Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has offered train drivers a 4 per cent pay rise over two years, after Aslef union members striked on Thursday.

If accepted, the proposal would mean the base salary for the average driver would increase from £60,000, to almost £65,000 by the end of 2023, RDG said.

Aslef told the Standard it has not seen the offer, sent on Friday evening, and will not be responding until next week.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak revealed he has invited union leaders for talks on Monday.

“We want to have a grown up, honest conversation with all union leaders about what is responsible, what is reasonable and what is affordable for our country when it comes to pay,” he said during a visit to a London school on Friday morning.

Fourth day of travel disruption begins

06:45 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Good morning, and welcome to the Standard’s live blog.

Throughout the day we’ll be bringing you everything you need to know as thousands of rail workers walk out in a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions, bringing a fourth consecutive day of travel disruption.

Services will be crippled by Friday’s walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 14 train operators.

Follow along for all the latest updates.

Last trains to and from London will be ‘extremely busy’, passengers warned

07:00 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Southeastern is urging people to “travel on an earlier train if possible” this evening, warning last trains to and from London will be “extremely busy”.

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Meanwhile Great Western Rail advised people to check times of last trains carefully before travelling, warning some services will finish earlier than usual.

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Labour criticises Government plan to crack down on strikes

07:25 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Labour has criticised the Government’s plans to curb strike action, suggesting it is reaching for a “legislative weapon” for political reasons.

Shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden told BBC Breakfast this morning: “The Government, by reaching for legislation in the middle of this series of disputes, is striking a pause when it should be striking a deal, and the way out of this current series of disputes is to negotiate, not to legislate.

“No-one wants to see these strikes. They are causing ongoing significant disruption for the public.

“The way to resolve them at the end of the day is to negotiate a deal that will get the railways running again, get the nurses back to work and get the people back to work in the other sectors where industrial action is taking place.

“This legislation, even if it was enacted, it wouldn’t have an impact on these current disputes.

“So, you wonder why, other than for political reasons, the Government is reaching for a legislative weapon which its own Secretary of State says wouldn’t work in the context of the current disputes.”

Elizabeth line now running with severe delays

07:48 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

The London Undergound’s Elizabeth line is now running across all lines, with some severe delays.

TfL says the delays are affecting services between Paddington and Reading, and between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, and are due to the strike action by Network Rail staff.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

There is currently a good service on the rest of the line.

Trains are operating between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, and between Paddington and Heathrow and Reading, until 5.30pm.

TfL advises people to “take the first train and change where necessary”.

Rail services unreliable even when there’s no strike, says Labour MP

07:57 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Train services are unreliable even when there is not a strike, a shadow Treasury minister has said.

Asked on BBC Breakfast how Labour would ensure minimum service levels during strikes, Pat McFadden said: “Even when there’s not a strike the trains are unreliable right now and legislation like [the Government is planning] will do nothing to improve that.

“The way to guarantee good services is to negotiate to resolve the disputes. Yes, implement reforms and changes that are needed in various sectors. Do that by striking a deal, not by striking a pose.”

District line running again but with minor delays

08:02 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

The District line is running again after being part-suspended earlier this morning.

There are minor delays between Turnham Green and Richmond due to the strike action, says TfL’s website, but a good service on the rest of the line.

String of strikes affecting other sectors yet to come in January

08:40 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

January is set to be hit by a wave of strikes affecting other sectors - with teachers, nurses, paramedics and ambulance staff among those also staging walkouts.

 (PA)
(PA)

Mick Lynch: Laws to crack down on strikes are ‘a symbol the Government are losing’

08:44 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has described laws to block industrial action as a “symbol” that the Government is “losing the argument”.

Speaking from the picket line at Euston Station on Friday, Mr Lynch told BBC Breakfast: “It is really important in a democratic society that we have free trade unions that represent working people and represent the biggest democratic force in this country.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) (PA)
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) (PA)

“There is no bigger movement than the trade union movement, six or seven million people in it.”

He said of the new laws: “What this is a symbol of is that the Government are losing the argument.

“They’ve lost the argument on austerity and pay, and the state of our national public services.

“And instead they want to close that argument down by closing down the unions and stopping us from campaigning against poverty.”

New industrial action laws ‘a threat to sack unionists’, says Lynch

09:06 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said the Government’s new industrial action legislation is a threat to sack union members if they refuse to go to work.

Speaking from the picket line at Euston Station on Friday, Mr Lynch told BBC Breakfast: “What they are saying is that they will sack our members if they don’t go to work.

“They are going to conscript our members.

“We have to name who will go to work, and if those members in a lawful manner don’t want to cross our picket line they can be dismissed individually and the union can be fined.

“So we will have to see what the law says.”

Pictures show striking RMT members on picket line outside Euston station

09:18 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

 (PA)
(PA)
 (PA)
(PA)

Mick Lynch: Government ‘incompetent and incapable of understanding the railway’

09:53 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has accused the Government of being “incompetent” and “incapable” of understanding and running the railway service.

“The railway service is in desperate straits,” Mr Lynch said from the picket line at Euston Station in London on Friday.

“The companies that run it and the Government that oversees it have shown that they are incompetent and incapable of understanding the railway and running the railway on a daily basis.

RMT boss Mick Lynch speaking outside Euston on Friday (PA)
RMT boss Mick Lynch speaking outside Euston on Friday (PA)

“When we are not on strike, the passengers are told in this station and every other station, that due to shortages of staff trains aren’t running.

“At the same time, they say to me at the negotiating table that they want to make thousands of your members redundant.

“So there is something desperately wrong with the way this railway is being run. But there is something desperately wrong with the way all public services are being run, and that’s why the workforce in these services are in rebellion now.

“The Government has got to get a grip and come to the table with all these disputes, and say ‘we want to work with you and settle these disputes and get a deal’.”

Public support for strikes has 'taken a dent’ but is ‘very high’ says union boss

10:11 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said that public support for their strike action has “taken a dent” but is still “very good”.

“We’ve had four weeks of continuous action in this latest phase,” he said on Friday morning.

“We’ve taken a little bit of a dent in public opinion, but it’s very high. It’s up in the mid-40s – 45 per cent I think is the latest poll – that’s a very good score in the middle of industrial action.

“We expect that to come back as people get over this latest phase.

“Our numbers are at record highs for an industrial action campaign. As they are for the nurses, and the teachers, and the posties, and everyone else.”

Severe delays across a number of Underground lines

10:21 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Severe delays are now affecting the Circle, Elizabeth and Hammersmith & City lines, due to the knock-on effects of the strike.

There are minor delays on the Central line too, while a faulty train at Gospel Oak is causing severe delays on the London Overground between Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction and Richmond.

For live service updates, visit the TfL website.

Government has invited union leaders for ‘grown-up conversation about what’s affordable’

10:32 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Rishi Sunak says the Government has invited union leaders for what he hopes will be a “grown-up” conversation on Monday about what is affordable.

Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to a school in south-west London, the Prime Minister was asked if proposed legislation could see nurses sacked for striking, and if it was his ambition to go further and make some more strikes in critical services illegal.

“Yesterday the Government wrote to all union leaders inviting them in for talks on Monday,” Mr Sunak said.

The Prime Minister’s comments came as he visited Harris Academy in Battersea (REUTERS)
The Prime Minister’s comments came as he visited Harris Academy in Battersea (REUTERS)

“We incredibly value the important work that our public-sector workers do, especially our nurses, and we want to have an honest, grown-up conversation about what’s affordable, what’s responsible for the country.

“Those invitations have gone out and I’m hopeful that those meetings can happen on Monday so we can have a productive conversation and find a way through this.”

Sunak doesn’t rule out people being sacked for not going to work under new laws

10:59 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Rishi Sunak did not rule out people being sacked for not going to work during strikes under proposed new legislation to ensure minimum service levels.

Asked a second time whether people could be sacked for not going to work under proposed new strike legislation, the Prime Minister told broadcasters on Friday: “I fully believe in the unions’ role in our society and the freedom for them to strike.

Mr Sunak visiting Harris Academy in Battersea on Friday (REUTERS)
Mr Sunak visiting Harris Academy in Battersea on Friday (REUTERS)

“I also believe that that should be balanced with the right of ordinary working people to go about their lives free from significant disruption.

“That’s why we’re going to bring forward new laws, in common with countries like France, Italy, Spain and others, that ensure that we have minimum levels of safety in critical areas like fire, like ambulance, so that even when strikes are going on you know that your health will be protected.

“I think that’s entirely reasonable and that’s what our new laws will do.”

PM ‘hopeful’ talks with union leaders will be ‘constructive'

11:07 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Rishi Sunak has said he is “hopeful” that talks with union leaders can be “constructive” and “we can find a way through this”.

The Prime Minister was asked whether Monday’s talks with union leaders will include discussions about “this year’s pay” during a visit to a school in London.

Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union Secretary-General Mick Lynch during an RMT union picket outside London Euston station on Friday (AFP via Getty Images)
Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union Secretary-General Mick Lynch during an RMT union picket outside London Euston station on Friday (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Sunak told broadcasters: “What we’ve said is we want to have a grown-up, honest conversation with all union leaders about what is responsible, what is reasonable and what is affordable for our country when it comes to pay.

“We think those conversations should happen. That’s why we’ve invited everyone in to have those talks on Monday and I’m hopeful that those talks can be constructive and we can find a way through this.”

Pictured: Striking RMT members picketing in Kent

12:00 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Railway staff outside Ashford International station in Kent during Friday’s RMT strike (PA)
Railway staff outside Ashford International station in Kent during Friday’s RMT strike (PA)

Mick Lynch accuses Ben Shephard of parroting Network Rail’s lines in explosive debate

12:37 , Barney Davis

RMT boss Mick Lynch accused ITV’s Ben Shephard of merely repeating Network Rail bosses in a fiery exchange on Good Morning Britain.

After being confronted with the idea that the strikes could be called off if only 2,000 RMT members changed their votes, Mr Lynch angrily hit back.

He told the presenter: “Well, you’re just repeating the company’s lines there on their behalf. I don’t know why you choose to do that.”

He joked about the 2:1 ratio of those who voted against the deal, adding: “In any football match that I’ve seen if you get two and the opposition get 1 then you win the game.”

In the viral clip, Ben Shephard conceded he had got the figures from Network Rail.

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Plans by ministers to meet with union leaders on Monday is ‘too little, too late’ - Lib Dems

13:13 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “This is too little, too late. People have already died waiting for ambulances because of these harmful strikes, all because Rishi Sunak refused to get around the table with workers.

“Businesses have lost money and commuters have been unable to get into work after weeks of chaos. The human cost and economic damage of these strikes has been devastating.

Christine Jardine (PA)
Christine Jardine (PA)

“Rishi Sunak should apologise to the country for taking so long to do the right thing and properly sit down and negotiate. Weeks have been wasted and now the public is exhausted after services kept coming to a standstill.

“Rishi Sunak is proving to be just like his predecessors by allowing the country to be plunged into chaos. He is just as bad as Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.”

Commuters warned to keep an eye on train times as services due to end early

15:12 , Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Southeastern has warned commuters to check train times as limited train services running today are due to begin winding down in the early evening.

The rail firm has also urged people to avoid catching the final trains to and from London where possible, warning they are likely to be “extremely busy”.

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Severe delays for several Tube lines

16:28 , Miriam Burrell

A number of Tube lines are severely delayed this evening as commuters make their way home.

The Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, and Elizabeth lines are facing severe delays.

On the Bakerloo line, there is no service all day between Queen’s Park and Harrow and Wealdstone due to strike action, TfL said. There is a good service on the rest of the line.

On the London Overground there is no service between Barking and Barking Riverside, Romford and Upminster and between New Cross and Surrey Quays.

A reduced service is operating on other routes until 6pm on Friday evening.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Are there strikes tomorrow?

16:53 , Miriam Burrell

National Rail strikes are continuing on Saturday January 7.

Some disruption is expected on the London Overground, the Elizabeth line, the Circle line and parts of the District and Bakerloo lines.

Services on the District and Elizabeth Line will finish early, at around 5.30 or 6pm. Travellers are being urged to plan ahead and check the National Rail and TfL websites.

Train drivers offered 4% pay rise - reports

17:03 , Miriam Burrell

Train drivers have been offered a 4 per cent pay rise across two years by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), it is being reported.

Operators offered Aslef union members a 4 per cent backdated pay rise for 2022 and a 4 per cent increase for 2023, the Telegraph reports.

RDG wrote to the union on Friday, and Aslef is yet to respond.

RDG offers train drivers ‘landmark proposal’

17:13 , Miriam Burrell

The Rail Delivery Group said it was offering a “landmark outline proposal” that would deliver more reliable services for passengers, in exchange for a pay increase of 4 per cent for 2022 and 4 per cent for this year.

It also includes a commitment to no compulsory redundancies until at least March 31 2024.

A statement said: “If accepted, the proposal would mean the base salary for the average driver would increase from £60,000, to almost £65,000 by the end of 2023.”

Aslef said it had not seen the offer and will likely not be responding until Monday.

What we know about the RDG offer

17:27 , Miriam Burrell

On Friday evening the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) offered train drivers a pay increase of 4% for 2022 and 4% for this year.

RDG said the proposal would mean the base salary for the average driver would increase from £60,000, to almost £65,000 by the end of 2023.

The deal also includes a commitment to no compulsory redundancies until at least March 31 2024.

Proposed changes include a Sunday Commitment Protocol, whereby drivers who are rostered to work a Sunday shift are contractually committed to doing so, unless alternative cover can be found.

RDG chairman Steve Montgomery said the offer was “fair and affordable” at a time when taxpayers are still funding up to an extra £175 million a month to make up the shortfall in revenue post-Covid.

Aslef said it had not seen the offer and will not be responding until next week.

 (PA)
(PA)

Offer for train drivers includes faster training

18:20 , Miriam Burrell

The Rail Delivery Group’s (RDG) has offer to speed up training so more drivers can join the workforce faster, in a proposal given to striking drivers.

The offer also includes changing the method for learning new routes, allowing drivers “to adopt new routes far more rapidly to help plug gaps in service”.

It would also give train companies back the ability to move drivers between depots where there are gaps due to sickness or absence, and puts the control of staff work and training schedules “back in the hands of the employers”.

RDG proposes ‘Sunday commitment protocol'

19:26 , Daniel Keane

The Rail Delivery Group has said proposed changes included a “Sunday commitment protocol”.

This will mean drivers who are rostered to work a Sunday shift are contractually committed to doing so unless alternative cover can be found.

“The change is vital in a post-Covid world which has seen leisure travel – currently at 116% of pre-Covid levels on Sundays – recover far more strongly than commuter and business travel,” the group said in a statement.

Live coverage ends

19:28 , Miriam Burrell

That’s all for our live coverage today.