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Aslef, the union representing train drivers, has initiated another phase of of strikes in their ongoing and contentious disagreement with 14 English train companies regarding compensation and working conditions.
According to Mick Whelan, the general secretary, our strike is not meant to inconvenience passengers. Instead, it is a way for us to express our disapproval of the government’s inflexibility and the lack of honesty from the private companies that employ us.
Train operators are requesting a salary raise without any conditions, and then to discuss updating work methods at a regional level – this will result in added costs for the employers. Aslef reports that certain drivers have not received a pay increase in the past five years.
The RDG, representing train operators, states that any salary increase is conditional upon extensive reforms.
The Department for Transport (DfT) will approve any agreements. Taxpayers are covering the costs, as ticket sales have decreased by 20% compared to before Covid. The subsidy for the railway is now £16,300 per minute, which is £4,000 higher than pre-pandemic levels.
According to the union, discussions with the RDG have not occurred since April and there have been no talks with ministers since January.
According to a representative from the Department for Transport, it is unfortunate that Aslef is focusing their actions on the public and hospitality industries during the start of the holiday season. Rather than going on strike, Aslef should take a cue from other rail unions and allow their members to vote on the proposed fair pay agreement.
A representative for the Rail Delivery Group stated: “The strike initiated by the Aslef leadership is completely unnecessary and will unfortunately cause disruption for customers and businesses during the crucial holiday season.”
Aslef is currently engaged in a disagreement with the rail companies that have been hired by the government to offer railway services. The companies include:
- Avanti West Coast
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
London commuter operators:
- Greater Anglia
- GTR (Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink)
- South Western Railway (including the Island Line on the Isle of Wight)
The focus of operators is on the Midlands and northern regions of England.
- Chiltern Railways
- Northern Trains
- West Midlands Railway
What is planned?
A work stoppage lasting nine days is resulting in numerous cancellations from December 1st to December 9th, including both dates.
The union is planning a strike between December 2nd and 8th, targeting different regions each day (except for Monday, December 4th) to create the most impact. Several train companies are choosing to cancel all services on the designated strike days.
According to Aslef, we have previously organized a strike for all members on the same day. However, this time, we have decided to spread out the strike action, which was approved by a majority vote, and also implement a ban on overtime throughout the week. This will have a bigger impact on the rail industry.
What impact is the overtime prohibition having?
The effect on individual train companies varies depending on their reliance on overtime and the level of employee absences, which are typically greater in the winter months compared to the summer.
Several operators have implemented significant preemptive cancellations in response to the overtime ban, in order to minimize disruptions on the day. Passengers are advised that trains may experience last-minute changes and cancellations.
Numerous trains were cancelled on the initial day, such as the South Western Railway service from London Waterloo to Southampton, Great Western Railway service from London Paddington to Weston-super-Mare via Bristol and Carmarthen through Cardiff and Swansea, and TransPennine Express connections from Manchester and Newcastle to Edinburgh. Additionally, several Manchester-Leeds-Hull services were affected.
The following rail companies have made announcements regarding preemptive cancellations:
On weekends, the service will be significantly reduced and there will also be fewer trains running on weekdays.
Chiltern Railways has announced a significant decrease in service on many routes, with certain branch lines not operating at all. Additionally, all routes will have earlier finishing times than usual. On December 1st, the company advises that they will not be able to provide service to the England vs Netherlands event at Wembley Stadium. Trains will not be stopping at Wembley Stadium for the entire day.
The Gatwick Express train service will be unavailable from December 1st to December 9th, with the exception of Sunday, December 3rd when regular service will resume. Southern trains will still run between London Victoria and Gatwick airport during this time of industrial action.
The London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway have announced that the branch lines connecting Bletchley to Bedford, Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey, and Leamington Spa to Nuneaton will be closed for most, if not all, days.
The revised schedule will have reduced services and may have delayed start and end times.
Notice from Thameslink: “There will be a modified schedule with reduced frequency in effect.”
When and where will the strikes take place?
Aslef train drivers will strike on these specific days for these specific train companies.
On Saturday, December 2nd, East Midlands Railway and LNER will be in operation.
On Sunday, December 3rd, the following train companies will be operating: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink, and West Midlands Trains.
On Monday, December 4th, there were no strikes.
On Tuesday, December 5th, there will be services for C2C and Greater Anglia.
- , Thameslink
On December 6th, Wednesday, the following train services will be operating: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway, and Thameslink.
- are running
On Thursday, December 7th, both CrossCountry and GWR will be operational.
On Friday, December 8th, Northern and TransPennine Trains will be in operation.
The disagreement does not involve either ScotRail or Transport for Wales.
What impact will it have?
According to past occurrences, these are the probable effects when drivers go on strike. Please confirm closer to the date of travel for accuracy.
On December 2nd, East Midlands Railway will not be operating any trains. They advise against traveling and there will be no alternative bus services available.
On December 2nd, LNER will have frequent trains running on primary routes that connect London King’s Cross with Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
Avanti West Coast (December 3rd): There will be no trains running. Services on the days before and after the strike will also experience disruptions.
- On December 3rd, there will be no train service at Chiltern.
There will be no trains running on West Midlands Railway on December 3rd.
There will be no train service on the Great Northern line on December 3rd.
All trains on Thameslink are canceled on December 3.
On December 5th, there will be no trains running.
On December 5th, Greater Anglia will have a limited service connecting London Liverpool Street to Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Southend Victoria, Cambridge, and Stansted airport.
On December 6th, there will be no train services on the Southeastern line.
- On December 6th, only a nonstop shuttle service will operate between London Victoria and Gatwick airport from 6am to 11:30am. There will be no other trains running.
On December 6th, Gatwick Express will not be running. However, the Southern airport shuttle will still provide transportation.
On December 6th, South Western Railway will offer a main service of four trains per hour from London Waterloo to Woking, with one train per hour continuing to Guildford and Basingstoke. Additionally, there will be a shuttle from Basingstoke to Salisbury, as well as trains from Waterloo to Feltham via Richmond and Twickenham.
On December 7, there will be no train service. Due to the previous day’s industrial action, there may be a delay in services starting on Friday, December 8.
On December 7th, Great Western Railway (GWR) will have a main train running from London Paddington to Oxford, Bath, and Bristol. There will also be a connection from Bristol to Cardiff. However, there will only be a limited service on smaller lines in Devon and Cornwall. The Night Riviera sleeper train from London to Penzance will not be in operation until October 6th.
- The Heathrow Express will have a reduced schedule on December 7th, operating only between 7am and 7pm.
There will be no train service on December 8 in the northern region.
There will be no trains running on TransPennine Express on 8 December.
On days when there is a strike, train schedules may be disrupted. Additionally, neighboring days may also experience some impact. As a result, trains on these days are expected to be very crowded as travelers adjust their plans to avoid the industrial action.
Can there be a day that is considered the worst?
Yes. Sunday 3 December is likely to be chaotic for anyone trying to travel north-south. Almost all services on the West Coast main line, which connects London Euston with the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales and southern Scotland, will be halted by the day’s Aslef strike.
Many people’s second choice is typically LNER, which operates on the East Coast main line. However, due to scheduled engineering work by Network Rail, the line will be completely shut down south of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. In place of train service, buses will be available between St Neots and Bedford. It is common for passengers to then take a frequent Thameslink train to London, but this will not be possible due to the Aslef strike.
Will any trains be impacted at any point?
On all strike days, ScotRail, Transport for Wales, and the following operators will provide regular service to passengers:
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Elizabeth Line
- Grand Central
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
During strikes by rail companies that offer similar services, trains tend to be more congested.
On Saturday, December 2nd, there may be increased congestion on Hull Trains, Lumo, and Grand Central due to strikes occurring on East Midlands Railway and LNER.
During the strike of GWR and Avanti West Coast, there may be an increase in passengers on Transport for Wales services running between Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea, as well as those between Crewe and Manchester.
Certain train stations may limit boarding or exiting trains in order to prevent overcrowding.
What do I need to get to an airport?
During the Elizabeth Line and Tube operations, London Heathrow will continue to be accessible at all times. However, on 7 December when there is a strike on the Heathrow Express, there will be a limited service from 7am to 7pm.
Travelers utilizing London Gatwick Airport will face double inconvenience, first on Sunday, December 3rd due to a strike by Thameslink train conductors, and then again on Wednesday, December 6th when Aslef members employed by Gatwick Express and Southern also go on strike. However, for those travelling between London, Gatwick, and Brighton, there will still be a considerable number of trains operating. These trains may be quite full, particularly during morning rush hour. There will be no Gatwick Express trains in operation during this time.
It is anticipated that London Stansted will have limited service on Tuesday, December 5th, while there will be changes to the service on all other days due to the overtime ban.
Accessible by rail from London on all days, even during strike days, Luton airport will have service on Saturday 2 December via Thameslink despite the East Midlands Railway (EMR) strike. The next day, EMR will be operational while Thameslink will not be running.
On Saturday, December 2nd, Birmingham airport will only be accessible by rail through Transport for Wales from Birmingham New Street.
On Sunday, December 3rd, Manchester airport will only be reachable by rail for those traveling from Manchester Piccadilly, Chester, and North Wales through Transport for Wales. All other routes will be unavailable.
How will Eurostar be impacted?
On strike days, there may be difficulties with connecting journeys, but trains will still operate normally between London St Pancras International and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Are there any additional challenges in the future?
Aslef’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, stated to The Independent that they are committed to the cause until it is resolved. He believes the issue is political and may only be resolved with a change in government.
RMT, the primary rail union, has received a strong majority vote in support of a 5% pay increase without any conditions, to be followed by discussions at the local level. This offer also includes a guarantee of no additional strikes for a period of six months.
What other options are available?
As usual, the long-distance coach companies – National Express, Megabus, and FlixBus – will continue to operate. However, there is a limited availability of seats and prices are increasing.
Flights within the UK from airports in London, Bristol, Exeter, and Southampton to destinations in Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow may experience higher prices during the days of planned strikes.