Train drivers to hold first of three rail strikes in England this week

Aslef members will hold widespread stoppages on Wednesday and Saturday, while RMT crew and station staff will strike on Friday

Passengers are bracing for the first of three rail strikes this week as services in England come to a standstill amid a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef will embark on a 24-hour strike on Wednesday. The union also plans to strike on Saturday.

On these days, no trains will run on networks including Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Northern, Southern, Southeastern, Thameslink and Northern.

Separately, about 20,000 onboard crew and station staff who are members of the RMT plan to take industrial action on Friday. That strike will disrupt services, but many operators will still run some trains.

The latest stoppages are likely to affect parents and children on the half-term break and passengers trying to travel to big events on Saturday, including the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley and a date of Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The strike comes after Aslef rejected a pay rise offer of 4% a year over two years from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the train operating companies.

The transport minister Huw Merriman has urged Aslef and the RMT to put the government’s “fair and reasonable” pay offer to their members.

The RMT called the pay deal from the RDG “unacceptable” and said no further proposals had been put forward for them to consider.

The union’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “The government is once again not allowing the Rail Delivery Group to make an improved offer that we can consider. Therefore, we have to pursue our industrial campaign to win a negotiated settlement on jobs, pay and conditions. Ministers cannot just wish this dispute away.”

The RDG has warned passengers that between Wednesday and Saturday, rail services will be “severely reduced with variations across the network and no services at all in some areas”.

An RDG spokesperson said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect our passengers’ daily commute, but will also impact those travelling from [and] to the FA Cup final and other events across the country, causing disappointment and frustration for tens of thousands of people.

“It will also inconvenience families who have been looking forward and have planned their half-term holidays. It will also further burden our people who have already lost thousands of pounds at a time of financial strain.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “These strikes have been coordinated by union leaders to disrupt passengers in a week which will see major events such as the first ever all Manchester FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a number of concerts and festivals across the UK.

“Not content with impacting the hundreds of thousands of people who have looked forward to these events all year round, unions are also targeting their own members’ pockets by forcing them to miss out on pay every time they strike.

“The government has facilitated a fair and reasonable pay offer, now union leaders must do the right thing and put this to their members.”


Joe Middleton

The GuardianTramp

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