Severe rail disruption across Great Britain as train drivers strike over pay

Members of Aslef union on 24-hour strike, affecting services in England, Scotland and Wales

Rail passengers are facing disruption as train drivers at nine operating companies stage a 24-hour strike, halting services in many parts of England, Scotland and Wales.

The strikes on Saturday affect nine train companies and come after the union said operators had failed to make a pay offer in line with the increase in the cost of living.

Thousands of members of the Aslef union are on strike in the latest industrial action in a deadlocked dispute over pay and “modernisation” on the railway.

The strike has stopped most intercity trains between London and the Midlands, northern England and Scotland, and into south Wales. Parts of the UK, including the West Midlands, south-west England and Kent, have no trains running on Saturday.

The Aslef general secretary, Mick Whelan, confirmed talks would take place with employers but warned that rail companies were prevented from offering a pay increase of more than 2% without permission from the government.

“We find ourselves in a position where we are saying: ‘That won’t be enough.’ They say: ‘It’s down to the government’; we talk to the government and they say: ‘You have got to talk to the employers,’ and then we end up with a situation where it goes round and round in circles,” he told the Today programme.

It comes as Grant Shapps seeks to crack down on unions with new legislation in the next session of parliament despite questioning the impact of industrial action.

Mick Whelen, general secretary of Aslef, joins the picket at Paddington Station.
Mick Whelen, general secretary of Aslef, joins the picket at Paddington Station. Photograph: Vuk Valcic/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Speaking to the Telegraph, the transport secretary said union bosses were “motivated by some outmoded class war that hankers after days that have gone”.

“Much to their upset, they’re not bringing the country to a standstill because people are able to work from home,” he added.

“The world has changed. It’s moved on. These union bosses are dinosaurs who haven’t realised that’s the case.”

Under consideration are plans to stop coordinated industrial action, limit picketing and enforcing a cool-off period after strikes.

However, Shapps’s proposals are dependent on whether the next prime minister – installed on 5 September – keeps him in the ministerial position.

Speaking to Aslef members at Willesden Junction station on Saturday, Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP for Brent North, said the public were increasingly sympathetic towards striking train drivers.

“Across the country [people are] beginning to understand that this is not about somebody else inconveniencing them,” said Gardiner.

“This is about their bosses, their companies that are coming for their wage levels and are coming for their terms and conditions. People are now saying: ‘this is about me.’”

Aslef represents 96% of train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales.

Drivers are striking at Arriva Rail London, Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, London North Eastern Railway (LNER), West Midlands Trains and Southeastern.

The strike means no trains are running at all on Saturday on London Overground, CrossCountry, Southeastern, West Midlands Trains, London Northwestern Railway and Avanti West Coast.

Very limited services are running on Hull Trains, Great Western Railway, LNER and Greater Anglia’s network, including the Stansted Express airport service.

Saturday’s action is the first in a week of strikes by four separate transport unions that will severely curtail rail services. Trains will also be disrupted for four days starting on Thursday, as 40,000 members of the RMT union at Network Rail and 14 train operators stage two 24-hour strikes on 18 and 20 August. Several thousand TSSA members at Network Rail and seven train operators will also take action the same day.

The lack of signallers will allow only about a fifth of the usual timetable to run on strike days, while services are not expected to resume properly until late morning on the following days.

London transport will also be disrupted on the day between the national rail strikes, 19 August, when RMT members and some Unite members at Transport for London and London Overground will strike. Most tube and London Overground services in the capital will not run. Parts of the city will also be left without buses, as 1,600 drivers in west London in the Unite union will go on strike for two days from 19 August.


Gwyn Topham and Amy Walker

The GuardianTramp

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