Drivers’ strike will see no train services in parts of country

Parts of the country will have no train services on Friday because of a fresh strike by drivers in a long-running pay dispute.

Members of Aslef at Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern will walk out, mounting picket lines outside stations.

All five train operators said they will not run any services, with passengers urged not to attempt to travel.

A ban on overtime at 16 companies is also continuing until Saturday, which will cause disruption to services.

On Saturday train drivers will walk out on Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway, LNER, Heathrow Express, Northern and TransPennine Express.

A strike on Monday will affect c2c, Gatwick Express, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Great Northern, Southeastern, Southern, South Western Railway (including the Island line) and Thameslink.

Train operators warned that on strike days it is likely that few or no services will run across large areas of the network operated by the affected train companies.

Services are also likely to be disrupted and start later on the day immediately following a full strike day.

On days where an overtime ban is in place, the timetable for some train companies may be revised in advance or services may be subject to short-notice delay or cancellation on the day.

A law is now in place aimed at ensuring a minimum level of service during rail strikes but none of the operators involved in the Aslef dispute has applied to use it.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the union had called for talks after announcing renewed mandates for industrial action, highlighting that train drivers have not had an increase in salary since 2019.

He said: “Our members voted overwhelmingly, yet again, for strike action.

“Those votes show a clear rejection by train drivers of the ridiculous offer put to us in April last year by the Rail Delivery Group which knew that offer would be rejected because a land grab for all the terms and conditions we have negotiated over the years would never be accepted by our members.

“Since then, train drivers have voted, time and again, to take action in pursuit of a pay rise. That’s why Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, is being disingenuous when he says that offer should have been put to members.

“Drivers wouldn’t vote for industrial action, again and again and again, if they thought that was a good offer. That offer was dead in the water in April last year and Mr Harper knows that.

Industrial strike
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the union has ‘given the Government every opportunity to come to the table’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

“We asked Mr Harper, or his deputy, the rail minister Huw Merriman, to come and meet us. We asked the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the train operators (TOCs) to come and talk to us.

“We haven’t heard from Mr Harper, Mr Merriman, the RDG, or the TOCs since those new mandates were announced weeks ago. In fact, Mr Harper hasn’t deigned to talk to us since December 2022, Mr Merriman hasn’t talked to us since January 2023 and the RDG has not seen fit to join us in the room since April last year.

“We have given the Government every opportunity to come to the table but it is now clear they do not want to resolve this dispute. They are happy for it go on and on.

“We are not going to give up. Many members have now not had a single penny increase in pay for half a decade, during which time inflation has soared and, with it, the cost of living.”

He told the PA news agency that the dispute has now cost more than £2 billion, a fraction of which could have resolved the dispute.

He said Aslef members remain solidly behind the campaign, and in many cases want to go “harder and faster” because of the lack of progress.

A spokesman or the RDG said: “We are sorry that this round of strikes called by the Aslef leadership risks disrupting journeys.

“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running and we will work with our industry partners to keep as many trains running as possible, unfortunately there will be reduced services between Thursday April 4 to Tuesday April 9.

“Our advice is to check before you travel and follow the latest travel information.

“Minimum Service Level legislation is one of many useful tools for managing strike disruption, but it is not a silver bullet.

“Operators’ guiding principle is always to make sure they can offer the best, most reliable services possible for their passengers on and around industrial action days, and to do that they need to make careful assessments of their own particular operational circumstances before deciding the best way forward.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Aslef is the only rail union continuing to strike, targeting passengers and preventing their own members from voting on the pay offer that remains on the table.

“Having resolved disputes with all other rail unions, the Transport Secretary and rail minister have ensured that a pay offer is on the table – taking train drivers’ average salaries from £60,000 up to £65,000.”

Train drivers on LNER will strike on Saturday April 20 over a separate issue to the national pay dispute.

Aslef members at the company will also ban overtime from Friday April 19 to Sunday 21.

The union said LNER is failing to adhere to agreements.

Mr Whelan said: “Train drivers are fed up with the bad faith shown by this company, probably at the behest of the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, and the rail minister, Huw Merriman, and we are not prepared to put up with being bullied and pushed about by a company that thinks it can break agreements whenever it feels like it.

“We honour the agreements we make, because we are honourable people. Train companies should do the same.

“It’s two years since P&O sacked its workforce in a disgusting and disgraceful action that the Government allowed. But train companies in this country are not going to change our terms and conditions on a whim.”

An LNER spokesman said: “Our priority focus remains on minimising disruption to customers. We continue to encourage Aslef to work with us to find a way to end this long-running dispute.”

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