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The union representing train drivers, Aslef, has initiated another phase of strikes in their ongoing and contentious disagreement with 14 English train companies regarding salaries and work schedules.
According to Mick Whelan, the general secretary, we are striking once more not to cause trouble for passengers, but to demonstrate our outrage towards the government’s inflexibility and the dishonesty of the private companies that employ us.
Train operators are being urged by train drivers to grant a salary increase without any conditions, and then engage in discussions at a community level to update their methods of work – a change that will come at an extra cost for the employers. The train drivers’ union, Aslef, claims that several drivers have not received a raise in pay for five years.
The RDG, which represents the train operators, states that any pay raise will only be approved if significant changes are made.
The Department for Transport (DfT) will approve any agreement. Taxpayers are covering the cost, as ticket sales have decreased by 20% compared to before Covid, and the subsidy for the railway is now £16,300 per minute, which is £4,000 higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The union has not engaged in discussions with the RDG since April or with ministers since January.
A representative from the Department for Transport expressed disappointment that Aslef is choosing to disrupt the public and hospitality industries during the start of the holiday season. Rather than going on strike, Aslef should follow the lead of other rail unions and allow their members to vote on the proposed fair pay agreement.
A representative from the Rail Delivery Group stated that the strike action initiated by Aslef’s leaders is unwarranted and will unfortunately disrupt both customers and businesses during the important holiday season.
Aslef is currently in a conflict with the railway companies that have been contracted by the government to offer rail transportation. These 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)
The railway system in the southwestern region, which includes the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.
Operators with a focus on the Midlands and northern regions of England.
- Chiltern Railways
- Northern Trains
- West Midlands Railway
What is planned?
A ban on overtime for nine days is resulting in the cancellation of thousands of events from December 1st to 9th, including.
The union has organized a strike that will take place between December 2nd and 8th. Each day, a different region will be targeted for disruption, excluding Monday, December 4th. As a result, several train companies are planning to cancel all services on their designated strike days.
According to Aslef, they have previously organized strikes for all members on the same day. However, this time, they have decided to spread out the strike action, which was voted for by a large majority of members, throughout the week. They have also implemented a ban on overtime, which is considered to be a less severe form of action. As a result, the impact on the rail industry will be more significant.
What impact is the overtime ban having?
The impact on train operators varies depending on their reliance on overtime and the level of employee illness, which tends to be greater during the winter season compared to summer.
Some operators, listed below, have made large-scale pre-emptive cancellations to take account of the overtime ban and reduce on-the-day disruption. The general warning to passengers: “Trains are subject to short notice alterations and cancellations.”
Many trains were cancelled on the first day, such as South Western Railway’s train from London Waterloo to Southampton, Great Western Railway’s train from London Paddington to Weston-super-Mare via Bristol and Carmarthen via Cardiff and Swansea, and TransPennine Express links from Manchester and Newcastle to Edinburgh. Additionally, several Manchester-Leeds-Hull services were also affected.
The following rail companies have announced pre-emptive cancellations:
Weekend service will be significantly decreased, and there will also be fewer trains running on weekdays.
Chiltern Railways has announced a significant decrease in service on most routes, and some branch lines will not have any trains running. Additionally, all services will end earlier than usual. On December 1st, the company has stated that they will be unable to provide service for the England vs Netherlands event at Wembley Stadium, with no trains stopping at the station throughout the day.
The Gatwick Express will not have trains running from December 1st to 9th, with the exception of Sunday, December 3rd when regular service will resume. Southern trains will connect 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 and Bedford, Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, and Leamington Spa and Nuneaton will be closed for the majority of days or possibly all days.
- The schedule for Southern trains has been updated to include fewer services. Some services may have delayed start times and earlier finishing times compared to usual.
Thameslink issues a warning that there will be a modified schedule with reduced frequency.
When and where will the strikes occur?
Aslef train drivers will be going on strike on the specified days against the following train companies:
On Saturday, December 2nd, East Midlands Railway and LNER will be operating.
On Sunday, December 3rd, the following train companies will be operating: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink, and West Midlands Trains.
There will be no strikes on Monday, December 4th.
- train services cancelled
Train services operated by C2C and Greater Anglia have been cancelled on Tuesday, December 5.
On Wednesday, December 6th, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, and South Western Railway services will be available.
- services on Thursday 7 December
On Thursday, December 7th, both CrossCountry and GWR services will be in operation.
On December 8th, Northern and TransPennine Trains will be operating.
Neither ScotRail nor Transport for Wales are participating in the conflict.
What will be the result?
From past occurrences, these are the potential consequences of drivers going on strike. It is advisable to verify closer to the date of travel for confirmation.
On December 2nd, East Midlands Railway has announced that there will be no train services available. They advise passengers to not travel and have stated that there will be no alternative bus services offered.
From 2 December, LNER will have consistent train services running on main routes that connect London King’s Cross with Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
There will be no train service on December 3rd for Avanti West Coast. Additionally, services on the days before and after the strike will also experience disruptions.
On December 3rd, there will be no train services at Chiltern.
On December 3rd, there will be no trains running on West Midlands Railway.
On December 3rd, there will be no train services on the Great Northern line.
On December 3rd, there will be no trains running on the Thameslink line.
- on Saturday
On December 5th, there will be no train services running on Saturday.
On December 5th, Greater Anglia will have a restricted schedule connecting London Liverpool Street to Norwich, Ipswich, and Colchester, Southend Victoria, Cambridge, and Stansted airport.
There will be no train service on December 6th in the Southeastern region.
On December 6th, Southern will only have a nonstop shuttle service running between London Victoria and Gatwick airport from 6am to 11:30am. There will be no other trains running during this time.
On December 6th, the Gatwick Express service will not be running. However, the Southern airport shuttle will still be in operation to transport passengers.
On December 6th, South Western Railway will have a main service of four trains per hour traveling between London Waterloo and Woking. One train every hour will continue on to both Guildford and Basingstoke. There will also be a shuttle service from Basingstoke to Salisbury. Additionally, trains will run between Waterloo and Feltham, passing through Richmond and Twickenham.
- On December 7th, there will be no train services. Due to a strike on the previous day, there is a possibility that services may begin later than usual on Friday, December 8th.
On December 7th, Great Western Railway (GWR) will operate a main service from London Paddington to Oxford, Bath, and Bristol. There will also be a connection from Bristol to Cardiff. Limited service will be available on branch lines in Devon and Cornwall. The Night Riviera sleeper service from London to Penzance will resume on Friday, October 6th.
On December 7th, the Heathrow Express will have a decreased schedule from 7:00am to 7:00pm.
On December 8th, there will be no train service.
On December 8th, there will be no train services operated by TransPennine Express.
Furthermore, not only will there be disruptions on strike days, but trains on the days surrounding the strike may also experience delays. Additionally, these trains are expected to be overcrowded as passengers adjust their travel plans to avoid the industrial action.
Is there a day that can be considered the worst?
On Sunday, December 3rd, it was a chaotic day for those attempting to travel in a north-south direction. The majority of trains on the West Coast main line, which links London Euston to the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales, and southern Scotland, were stopped due to the Aslef strike.
The alternate option for most people would typically involve taking the LNER train on the East Coast main line. However, due to scheduled engineering work by Network Rail, the line was completely shut down south of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. As a result, rail replacement buses were arranged between St Neots and Bedford, where passengers would usually transfer to a Thameslink train for their journey to London. Unfortunately, these trains were not running due to the Aslef strike.
Will there be an impact on all trains at some point?
There will be no disruptions on ScotRail, Transport for Wales, and other operators on all strike dates. Passengers can expect regular service.
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Elizabeth Line
- Grand Central
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
When there is a strike among rail companies that offer similar services, trains are expected to be more congested.
When GWR and CrossCountry go on strike, there may be increased traffic on Transport for Wales routes connecting Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea.
In order to prevent overcrowding, certain train stations may have limitations on boarding or exiting trains.
What do I require in order to arrive at an airport?
The Elizabeth Line and the Tube provide continuous access to London Heathrow. Despite the planned Heathrow Express strike on December 7th, there will still be a limited service from 7am to 7pm.
London Gatwick travelers will be affected twice: on Sunday, December 3 due to a strike by Thameslink train drivers, and on Wednesday, December 6 when Aslef members working for Gatwick Express and Southern will also go on strike. However, there will still be a considerable number of trains running for main line passengers between London, Gatwick, and Brighton. These trains may be extremely crowded, particularly during morning hours. No Gatwick Express trains will be operating at all.
On Tuesday 5 December, there will be a limited hourly service at London Stansted due to an overtime ban. “Service alterations” will be in effect on all other days during this ban.
The railway provides access to Luton airport from London every day, even during strike days. On December 2nd, when East Midlands Railway (EMR) was on strike, Thameslink trains were operating. The next day, Thameslink was not running but EMR was.
On Saturday, December 2nd, the only way to reach Birmingham airport by train was through Transport for Wales from Birmingham New Street.
On Sunday, December 3rd, the only way to reach Manchester airport by train was through Transport for Wales from Manchester Piccadilly, Chester, and North Wales.
Is Eurostar going to be impacted?
On strike days, connecting journeys may be challenging, but trains will still operate normally between London St Pancras International and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Are there any additional problems on the horizon?
According to Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, the organization is committed to staying in the dispute for however long it takes. He views it as a political issue that may only be resolved with a change in government.
The RMT, a major rail union, has shown strong support for a 5% pay offer with no conditions, to be followed by discussions at the local level. They have also agreed not to strike for the next six months.
What other options are available?
As usual, the long-distance bus companies National Express, Megabus, and FlixBus will continue to operate, although available seats are becoming limited and prices are increasing.
Air travel prices for flights within the UK from London, Bristol, Exeter, and Southampton to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow are expected to rise during days affected by strikes.
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