Train strikes latest: Passengers blast ‘selfish’ rail union walkouts as commuters suffer third day of travel chaos

Train strikes latest: Passengers blast ‘selfish’ rail union walkouts as commuters suffer third day of travel chaos

London commuters have vented their frustraton as they suffered a third consecutive day of travel disruption because of a strike by train drivers.

Services are being crippled by the walkout by members of Aslef at 15 rail companies in a long-running dispute over pay, with some areas having no trains all day.

There were no services on Thursday morning on Southeastern, Thameslink, Great Northern or Avanti West Coast, while South Western Railway and Greater Anglia were limited to skeleton services into Waterloo and Liverpool Street.

Victoria, normally one of the busiest stations in the county, was closed, with no Southern or Gatwick Express trains running. Passengers there described the situation as a “nightmare” and “bad for Britain” - and accused the unions of “losing the plot” over the “selfish” strikes.

Meanwhile the Government announced it will be introducing a bill to Parliament in the next few weeks to “ensure minimum safety levels” during industrial action for services including fire, ambulance and rail.

Unions and the Labour Party have condemned the proposed legislation, saying it is “a desperate act” and “an attack on working people”.

The RMT is staging another 48-hour strike from Friday in its bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Most Tube lines are running

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:03 , Will Mata

Transport for London has reported a good service on all lines apart from the Northern and Circle, which both have ‘severe delays’.

The Bakerloo is part suspended as is the District while ‘minor delays’ have been reported for the Central line.

Train lines not running today

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:06 , Will Mata

There will be no services at all on Avanti West Coast; Chiltern; CrossCountry; East Midlands; Govia Thameslink Railway; Great Northern, Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services; Northern; Southeastern; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

GWR, Greater Anglie and LNER will all run a limited service.

Aslef have settled disputed in London itself and are not taking action with C2C.

Picket lines in London

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:10 , Will Mata

Aslef has said it will have picket lines in several stations around London for most of the day.

These will be at:

Clapham Junction

Grove Park Depot

Hornsey Depot

Ilford Depot

Kings Cross

Victoria

Norwood Junction

Selhurst Depot

Wimbledon Depot

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Why Aslef are striking

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:15 , Will Mata

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said it was ‘inevitable’ that further strikes will be held unless the deadlock is broken (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said it was ‘inevitable’ that further strikes will be held unless the deadlock is broken (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said it was “inevitable” that further strikes will be held unless there is a breakthrough to the long running row.

He warned that strikes could escalate, saying train drivers wanted to go “harder and faster” after years of not receiving a pay rise.

Mr Whelan said he felt rail employers and the Government were “playing games” rather than making any serious attempt to resolve the pay dispute.

“The situation is getting worse and my members now want to go harder and faster because of the lack of progress.

“The train companies say their hands have been tied by the government. While the government – which does not employ us – says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.

“We are always happy to negotiate – we never refuse to sit down at the table and talk – but these companies have offered us nothing, and that is unacceptable.”

Other strikes in London

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:19 , Will Mata

 (PA)
(PA)

Also on January 5, some bus drivers in London are taking industrial action - mostly in the south and west of the capital.

Meanwhile, driving examiners at test centres in London and the south of England are now set to be on strike until January 10. All driving tests will be cancelled until that time and rearranged by the DVLA.

Rishi Sunak comment

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:22 , Will Mata

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The prime minister has commented on the strikes entering a third day - but has not addressed the issue on social media.

On Wednesday he said: “The right to strike has to be balanced with the right of the British public to be able to go about their lives without suffering completely undue disruption.”

Gatwick Express and Heathrow Express

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:25 , Will Mata

There is no Heathrow Express on Thursday due to the industrial action.

“We apologise for the inconvenience,” the operator wrote on Twitter. However, the Piccadilly line is operating a good service and provides trains to the airport.

As for the Gatwock Express, there are no trains on Thursday but will be a limited service on Friday and Saturday.

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Train strikes deal is now just a numbers game

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:27 , Will Mata

“Let’s not get overexcited,” writes Ross Lydall. “Rail strikes have been taking place since June last year. Major issues of principle are unresolved. Both sides are embedded.”

Read his full comment here.

'Tokenism’

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:38 , Will Mata

Mick Whelan said train drivers did not want to strike (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)
Mick Whelan said train drivers did not want to strike (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

Aslef secretary Mick Whelan dismissed the offer of a £2,000 increase in pay to drivers as ‘tokenism’.

He told the Guardian: “Inflation was running this year at 14%, we’ve had no pay rise for the previous two years, and they want industry reform for 3% – I don’t think that will fly with my members.”

Mark Harper comment

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:40 , Will Mata

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has called for a fast resolution to the strikes.

“We want to end these strikes with a deal that’s fair to workers, passengers and the taxpayer,” he tweeted.

“It’s time for the unions to get off the picket line and back round the table.”

Reduced service on the Overground

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:44 , Will Mata

London Overground has said it is running a reduced service until 6.30pm.

There is no service between Romford and Upminster, New Cross and Surrey Quays and between Barking and Barking Riverside due to strike action by Network Rail staff.

London Underground is accepting tickets via any reasonable route.

‘Damaging dispute’

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:52 , Will Mata

The Department for Transport is predictably not impressed with the action.

A statement on Wednesday read: “Passengers have rightly had enough of rail strikes and want the disruption to end.

“Unions should step back from this strike action so we can start 2023 by ending this damaging dispute.”

Severe delays on Elizabeth line

Thursday 5 January 2023 08:12 , Will Mata

There are delays on the Elizabeth line (PA Wire)
There are delays on the Elizabeth line (PA Wire)

There are severe delays on the Elizabeth line on Thursday.

Due to the strikes, London’s newest line is operating a reduced service.

A statement from TfL added: “Severe delays due to strike action by Network Rail staff. London Underground is accepting tickets via any reasonable route.”

Anti-strike law expected to be brought forward

Thursday 5 January 2023 08:19 , Will Mata

Rishi Sunak is set to announce legislation this week that will make it harder for unions to take strike action.

The prime minister is looking to ensure ‘minimum service levels’ across six sectos, including health, rail, education, fire and border security.

Union members could lose their jobs if they do not comply.

‘Rail strikers have lost the plot'

Thursday 5 January 2023 08:46 , Will Mata

Striking workers outside Victoria (John Dunne)
Striking workers outside Victoria (John Dunne)

Rail passengers today claimed rail unions had "lost the plot" over their "selfish" walkouts which have brought the network to a near standstill.

John Gratton, 51, who works in construction had to take a bus from Herne Hill to the site where he is working near Victoria because of the action.

He said: "To be honest I think the rail strikers have lost the plot. They are being selfish and making life difficult for normal working people like me."

Chris Calderwood, 32, who works in a gym, said: "I've only moved to London recently and I can barely remember a day when public transport ran well. I think hitting people over Christmas and New Year is bad PR fir the unions."

Maya Kovic, 23, was hoping to get a train to Gatwick. She said: “I didn't realise that the station would be closed. It's a bit if a nightmare. It's not good for the image of Britain."

One passer-by, addressing the picket line, said: "Shale in you" as frustrations spilled over.

Severe delays on Circle and Central lines

Thursday 5 January 2023 08:53 , Will Mata

Transport for London has said there are severe delays due to train cancellations on both the central and circle lines “due to train cancellations”.

Train drivers may ‘intensify’ campaign

Thursday 5 January 2023 09:00 , Will Mata

Aslef’s secretary Mick Whelan has said train drivers may look to intensify their strikes - after 15 companies walked out on Thursday.

"It may be we have to take greater action going forward, to make people listen," he told the BBC - adding that union members had come frustrated at a lack of action.

"There is a vast will among our membership to continue," Mr Whelan added. "We're in this for the long haul."

The union is striking over a pay rise which they have said is overdue.

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Metropolitan line experiences delays

Thursday 5 January 2023 09:10 , Will Mata

There are now delays on the Metropolitan line in the north west section.

They are severe between Moor Park and Amersham. Between Moor Park and Chesham they are minor.

“This is due to emergency engineering work on the track,” Transport for London has said.

Tickets are being accepted on London buses.

From Euston

Thursday 5 January 2023 09:32 , Will Mata

Around a dozen train drivers represented by the Aslef union are striking over pay outside central London's Euston station at the start of a third consecutive day of rail disruption.

Some 12,500 drivers from 15 rail companies are picketing across the country on Thursday, and their action follows a 48-hour strike by RMT workers.

Those taking action at Euston and at Kings Cross are being joined by Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan.

Several passing cars beeped in support of the drivers as they passed Euston station.

Tube delays not because of strikes

Thursday 5 January 2023 09:53 , Will Mata

Transport for London has confirmed strikes are not the direct cause of the delays on the Circle and Central lines.

The Central has a shortage of rolling stock. The Circle, meanwhile, has a staff shortage due to illness, holidays and those struggling to get to work because of the strikes.

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Commuter: ‘Train strikes scuppered my plans'

Thursday 5 January 2023 11:54 , Josh Salisbury

Commuter Son Gyoh said the strikes crippling Birmingham New Street rail services had affected his plans "very badly" and "cost-wise".

He also saw the irony of his position, as he is an associate lecturer in supply chain management, sustainability and business, saying the strikes would be "a good example" for one of his classes.

Asked what he thought of the strikes, he said: "I don't know the details, but it is something that has affected the economy, affected people, it's costing people a lot of money.

"But the train drivers may have their own point to make, but I don't know what it's about."

Union crackdown laws ‘could mean longer rail strikes’ - union boss

Thursday 5 January 2023 12:26 , Josh Salisbury

Laws imposing minimum service levels during strikes could backfire on the Government by prompting workers to stage longer periods of industrial action, a union boss has warned.

Aslef general secretary, Mick Whelan, has said legal limits on how many workers can take time off to picket could mean unions launching longer strikes to retain the same impact of day-long action under current rules.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering measures which could allow employers to sue unions and sack workers if they did not provide a certain level of service.

Speaking at London's Euston station beside several striking train drivers, Mr Whelan said unions would "of course" take the Government to court if it imposed such laws.

Mr Whelan said: “We've had minimum service levels in countries all over Europe for years (but) it's never been enacted, because logistically it doesn't work.

“I haven't seen the legislation, but what I've garnered is that we would have to negotiate with each different company a minimum strike level.

“If say the strike minimum levels were 20%, we were told in the past that we didn't run full railway services during the fire brigade strike and the railway was unsafe, so we'd be doing something unsafe.

“Also, would we have to take more days action, to equate to the same level of effect that we have from one day now?”

Labour would repeal any anti-strike law

Thursday 5 January 2023 13:20 , Will Mata

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour has said it opposes reported anti-strike legislation and that the party would likely repeal any such bill if it wins the next election.

Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, giving his first speech of the new year, said he did not think the Conservative Government's legislation idea was "going to work".

If new restrictions on industrial action were imposed, Sir Keir said he would "repeal it" should the public put him into Downing Street.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also criticised the plan to make it more difficult for strikes to take place.

New strike law could come in on Thursday - reports

Thursday 5 January 2023 13:22 , Will Mata

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could set out details of a planned new law to curb strikes as soon as Thursday, The Times reported, saying ministers intend to make industrial action illegal in some sectors if minimum service levels are not met.

The Times newspaper said the legislation would enforce minimum service levels in six sectors, including the health service, rail, education, fire and border security, which would require a proportion of union members to continue working.

Britain has faced a wave of industrial action over the last few months, with strikes crippling various sectors including the rail network set to continue as surging inflation follows more than 10 years of stagnant wage growth.

The strikes would be deemed illegal if unions refused to provide the minimum level of service, the newspaper quoted a government source involved in the discussions as saying.

Employers would be able to sue unions and sack staff under government plans to curb the right to strike, the report added.

Government pressing ahead with anti-strike legislation

Thursday 5 January 2023 15:24 , Will Mata

The Government is pressing ahead with plans to introduce new legislation for "minimum safety levels" during industrial action.

The Business Department announced that a Bill will be introduced in Parliament in the coming weeks to ensure that vital public services will have to maintain a "basic function" when workers go on strike.

Minimum safety levels will be set for fire, ambulance and rail services and the Government said it will consult on the "adequate level of coverage" for these sectors.

The announcement was made amid a wave of strikes, including a walkout by train drivers on Thursday which crippled rail services.

Unions reacted with fury to the move, saying it would do nothing to resolve the disputes breaking out across the country every week.

Stalemate holding back progress

Thursday 5 January 2023 15:26 , Will Mata

Mick Whelan outside Euston (PA)
Mick Whelan outside Euston (PA)

The six-month stalemate between striking rail workers and the Government is holding back progress on green transport, according to a union boss.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the deadlock over pay negotiations is taking rail leaders' focus away from improving the sustainability of Britain's rail network.

He added that a lack of investment in the railways and increased train fares have caused commuters to opt for less eco-friendly modes of transport like driving.

Mr Whelan joined several train drivers striking outside London's Euston station on Thursday, while thousands more Aslef members set up picket lines across the country on their sixth day of action since last summer.

Asked whether the ongoing dispute is stopping rail leaders improving green transport, Mr Whelan said he "couldn't see how" ministers will be able to deliver climate change targets without "putting rail at the centre" of their policies.

New strike legislation ‘attack on working people’

Thursday 5 January 2023 16:46 , Miriam Burrell

Responding to the Government’s plans to introduce new legislation on strikes, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “This is an attack on the right to strike. It’s an attack on working people, and it’s an attack on one of our longstanding British liberties.

“It means that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t. That’s wrong, unworkable, and almost certainly illegal.

“The announcement offers nothing more to help with this year’s pay and the cost-of-living crisis. The only offer of talks is for next year. But we need to resolve the current disputes and boost the pay of public sector workers now.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak (PA Wire)
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak (PA Wire)

‘A desperate act’: Unions respond to planned legislation

Thursday 5 January 2023 17:01 , Miriam Burrell

Unions have responded to the Government’s planned new law on minimum safety levels during industrial action for services including fire, ambulance and rail.

A GMB spokesperson said: “This is a desperate act by the Government, who are trying anything to divert attention from the chaos they have created from 13 years of failure in our public services.”

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is an empty offer from the Tory government, and a meaningless stunt from Grant Shapps.”

Meanwhile Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Just when you thought the Government could go no lower, ministers say they’re looking to deal with strikes by making them illegal, rather than negotiate with unions.”

Minimum safety levels would be set for fire, ambulance and rail services (PA Wire)
Minimum safety levels would be set for fire, ambulance and rail services (PA Wire)

What is the Government’s proposed strike bill?

Thursday 5 January 2023 17:19 , Miriam Burrell

The Government announced it will be introducing a bill to Parliament in the next few weeks which, it says, will ensure minimum safety levels during industrial action for services including fire, ambulance and rail.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said in a written statement: “As has been demonstrated over the last year, wide scale and repetitive industrial action can act as a major blockage to economic growth by preventing people from getting to work.

“Introducing the safety net of minimum service levels to ensure that the public are not put at risk during strike action is the best way of balancing the ability to strike, while protecting the wider public.

“This package of measures will see the UK align with many countries across the world such as France and Spain that already have minimum service agreements in place.

“Today’s reforms follow a change in the law made by the Government in July 2022 enabling businesses to provide skilled agency workers to fill vital staffing gaps caused by industrial strike action.”

Shapps says proposed bill ‘very reasonable'

Thursday 5 January 2023 17:34 , Miriam Burrell

Business Secretary Grant Shapps rejected the suggestion that a planned new law on minimum safety levels would impact on the human rights of trade union members.

He told broadcasters: “First of all, civilised European nations, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, they all have some form of minimum safety levels.

“The idea that there may not be an ambulance coming because there’s a strike on, I think, is unacceptable.

“We’re not proposing to go the full hog. Other countries, parts of America, Canada, Australia, they have legislation which bans those blue lights entirely from going on strike.

“We’re not proposing that. I think it’s very reasonable what we’re suggesting but I think the time has come and it brings us into line with other European nations.”

Business Secretary Grant Shapps (PA Wire)
Business Secretary Grant Shapps (PA Wire)

Labour says proposed bill is ‘insulting’

Thursday 5 January 2023 17:43 , Miriam Burrell

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner called the Government’s planned minimum service level legislation “unworkable” and said that Labour would oppose the bill.

The shadow future of work secretary said: “It’s insulting to key workers that Rishi Sunak thinks that threatening teachers and nurses with the sack will end strikes.

“At every stage the Government has sought to collapse talks and throw in last minute spanners. Now the Prime Minister is wasting time on shoddy hurdles that even his own Transport Secretary admits won’t work.”

Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner (PA Wire)
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner (PA Wire)

Proposed bill could be short-lived, lawyer says

Thursday 5 January 2023 18:34 , Miriam Burrell

A senior employment lawyer has said the Government’s proposed strike bill could be shortlived, even if it is passed in Parliament.

Tom Long, employment partner and industrial relations specialist at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Aside from the fact that trade unions will be unlikely to accept it without a fight, it may take months to go through parliament and even if passed, the Labour Party have been vocal about their intention to repeal it if they are elected in the next two years.

“Designed to protect minimum service levels, the current legislation is limited to what the Government considers ‘important public services’, such as nurses and the fire service, so will have no immediate effect on businesses outside of these areas.

“However, it could be argued that those ‘important public services’ are areas where the Government could be held responsible for the knock-on effects of strike action, for example delayed operations and hospital appointments.”

Unite union: Government’s bill ‘no more than a smoke screen’

Thursday 5 January 2023 20:01 , Miriam Burrell

Responding to the Government announcement on strikes Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This offer of so-called ‘pay talks’ from the government is game playing of the highest order. It is nothing more than a smoke screen.

“Bills need to be paid now, key workers’ families are suffering now, our NHS needs action now.

“The idea that we would call off industrial action on current pay issues in order to discuss the Government’s 2023/24 evidence to the Pay Review Body is frankly beyond a joke.

“It is not even jam tomorrow.”

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham (PA Wire)
Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham (PA Wire)

Live coverage ends

Thursday 5 January 2023 20:04 , Miriam Burrell

That’s all for our live coverage tonight. Check back in the morning.