UK rail passengers face new disruption in latest strike

People urged to travel only if necessary as train drivers with Aslef at 11 rail operators take industrial action over pay

Passengers across Britain face another day of cancelled or disrupted rail services on Saturday as drivers for 11 train companies go on strike.

Train operators urged people to travel only if necessary and to check before setting out, with no trains or only a handful of services running on affected routes.

Most direct intercity trains on mainlines from London to Scotland and Wales have been cancelled, with no services running at all on operators including Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, CrossCountry, Northern and Southeastern.

The latest strike by Aslef members comes as the union continues to ballot members over a further six months of potential strike action in the long-running dispute over pay.

Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, said that most drivers, who are paid on average £59,000 a year, had not seen an increase since before the Covid pandemic started.

He told the Guardian: “We still find ourselves for more than three years without a pay rise. And the employers are saying we can’t give you one without the government, and the government are saying you have to speak to the employer.”

Drivers have called off a planned strike at one company, Arriva London, which operates London Overground, ahead of Saturday. Whelan said: “We’ve resolved it there and in Scotland and Wales – [other cases seem] to be Westminster-driven.”

Whelan is due next Wednesday to meet the new transport secretary, Mark Harper, who raised hopes for a breakthrough after meeting the RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, on Thursday and promising to “work to facilitate” a deal.

The Aslef leader said: “If he can break the deadlock and find a way forward, that’s fine – but only the government at this moment can instruct the companies to break the contract they’ve entered into.”

The RMT has announced eight days of strikes in December and January, and Aslef may announce more after a meeting on 7 December. But Whelan said: “We are not deliberately targeting Christmas – we recognise all the problems people are facing.”

Daniel Mann, the director of industry operations at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The strike by Aslef brings more uncertainty for passengers and businesses by disrupting their weekend plans.

“While we will do all that we can to minimise disruption. If you are going to travel on the routes affected, please plan ahead and check the latest travel advice on national rail inquiries.”

Meanwhile, almost 3,000 bus drivers in London will press ahead with strikes next month, the Unite union confirmed. Members employed by Metroline and 950 at Abellio will take seven days of action from December 1-17 in disputes over pay.

Train operators and routes affected

Avanti West Coast: no service

Chiltern Railways: no service.

CrossCountry: no service.

East Midlands Railway: no service.

West Midlands Railway/London Northwestern Railway: no service.

Heathrow Express: no service.

Northern: no service.

Southeastern: no service.

Great Western Railway: extremely limited service, from 7.30am to 9.30pm, only between London and Bristol; Reading and Oxford; and Reading and Basingstoke.

Greater Anglia: extremely limited service, only between London Liverpool Street and Colchester; and Norwich and Southend. The Stansted Express will have one train an hour between Liverpool Street and Stansted airport.

London North Eastern Railway: extremely limited service. Just one train each way between London and Leeds, and four each way between London and Edinburgh.

Lumo: trains will run only between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

TransPennine Express: extremely limited service. Four trains each way between York and Manchester; three each way between Manchester and Liverpool; two trains each way between Sheffield and Cleethorpes.


Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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