Train strikes: Easter holidaymakers face travel misery as Aslef announces wave of walkouts

Train strikes: Easter holidaymakers face travel misery as Aslef announces wave of walkouts

A union has announced a wave of train strikes set to cripple both the national railway network and London Underground over the Easter holidays.

Aslef announced Tube drivers are to walk out over two days - for April 8 and May 4 - on Wednesday morning.

In a shock announcement later in the morning, it revealed train drivers at 16 train companies will also be taking “rolling one-day strikes” from April 5 to 8.

The train companies affected by the national strikes are Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, and CrossCountry on Friday, April 5; Chiltern, GWR, LNER, Northern, and TransPennine Trains on Saturday, April 6; and at c2c, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway main line and depot drivers, and SWR Island Line on Monday, April 8.

Members will also refuse to work overtime from April 4 to 6, and April 8 to 9.

Meanwhile Aslef Tube drivers are to walk out on Monday, April 8 and Saturday, May 4.

Finn Brennan, a representative for the union, said on Wednesday: “Aslef Tube train drivers will strike in April and May in a long-running dispute over London Underground’s failure to give assurances that changes to our members’ terms and conditions will not be imposed without agreement and that all existing agreements will be honoured.

“Despite a previous commitment to withdraw plans for massive changes to drivers’ working conditions, London Underground management has established a full-time team of managers preparing to impose their plans.

“They want drivers to work longer shifts, spending up to 25 per cent more time in the cab, and to remove all current working agreements in the name of ‘flexibility and efficiency’.”

The new Aslef strike comes two-and-a-half months after Sadiq Khan decided to use £30m of taxpayers’ cash to avert a week of walk-outs by union RMT, which represents about 10,000 Tube staff.

The RMT walk-outs would have effectively shut the Underground for four days, as staff demanded a 12 per cent pay rise.

But an unprecedented intervention saw the mayor decide to use unspecified City Hall funds to enable pay negotiations.

The decision prompted Aslef – which had already agreed to accept a five per cent increase – to demand more cash.The union said the mayor “had found the magic money tree and our members expect to share the fruit”.

Aslef said on Wednesday that a ballot saw Aslef drivers vote by more than 98 per cent in favour of Tube strike action, on a turnout of over 70 per cent.

Meanwhile Tram passengers in south London are being warned to expect disruption after a union announced a series of strikes.

About 60 Croydon Tramlink engineers are expected to go on strike in a row with TfL over pay from 24 to 28 March, the union Unite announced.

London business advocacy group BusinessLDN said it was “hugely frustrating for Londoners, visitors and businesses” that the capital would grind to a halt again due to industrial action.

The group’s deputy chief executive Muniya Barua said: “At a time when our economy is flatlining, these disruptive strikes will hit sectors such as hospitality and retail that rely on footfall especially hard.

“All sides should work together to break the current deadlock.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UKHospitality said the strike action “hurts everyone who wants to spend valuable time with family and friends this Easter” adding that all parties must act urgently to reach an agreement to solve the dispute.She said: "It is disappointing and frustrating to hear of this fresh round of strikes, which will impact hospitality businesses right in the middle of the Easter holidays.

“Train strikes have already cost the sector around £4.5 billion over the last two years. Given this is due to take place during the Easter holidays, there is no doubt this will rise again.

“Families will have plans disrupted, employees will be unable to make it into work and businesses will suffer.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies in the ongoing talks over pay and conditions, said: "Nobody wins when industrial action impacts people's lives and livelihoods, and we will work hard to minimise any disruption to our passengers.

"We want to resolve this dispute, but the Aslef leadership need to recognise that hard-pressed taxpayers are continuing to contribute an extra £54 million a week just to keep services running post-Covid.

"We continue to seek an agreement with the Aslef leadership and remain open to talks to find a solution to this dispute."

Responding to news of the Tube strikes, a TfL spokesperson said: “We have been in long-term discussions with our trade union colleagues on how to modernise procedures and processes on London Underground to improve the experience both for staff and customers.

“We have no plans to impose these changes and have committed to no one losing their job as part of these changes, and we have engaged with our unions to demonstrate that no change will be made that compromises our steadfast commitment to safety on the Tube network.

“We urge Aslef to continue discussions with us so that disruption for Londoners can be averted.”