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Aslef, the union for train drivers, has initiated another phase of protests in their ongoing and contentious conflict with 14 train operators in England regarding compensation and work schedules.
The general secretary, Mick Whelan, stated that the reason for the strike is not to cause inconvenience to passengers, but to convey their disappointment with the government’s stubbornness and the lack of honesty from the private companies that hire us.
Train operators are being urged by drivers to grant a salary increase without any conditions, and then engage in discussions at a regional level to update their methods of work. This will come at an extra cost for the employers. Aslef claims that some drivers have not received a raise in pay for a period of five years.
The RDG, which represents train operators, states that any raise in pay is dependent on significant changes being made.
The Department for Transport (DfT) will approve any agreement. Taxpayers are covering the costs as ticket sales have decreased by 20% compared to pre-Covid times, resulting in a subsidy of £16,300 per minute for the railway, which is £4,000 more than before the pandemic.
The union has not engaged in discussions with the RDG since April and has had no communication 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 holiday season. Rather than going on strike, Aslef should follow the example of other rail unions and allow their members to vote on the proposed pay agreement.
A representative from the Rail Delivery Group stated that the strike organized by the Aslef leadership is unnecessary and will unfortunately cause disruption for customers and businesses during the important holiday season.
Aslef is currently engaged in a disagreement with the railway companies that have been contracted by the government to offer rail 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)
- Reworded: The South Western Railway, which also covers 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?
The nine-day overtime restriction has resulted in numerous cancellations from December 1st to December 9th.
Union workers are participating in a strike between December 2nd and 8th. Every day, except for Monday, December 4th, a specific region of the country is being focused on to create the most chaos. Numerous train companies are choosing to cancel all of their services on the designated strike days.
According to Aslef, in the past, they have called for a strike on the same day. However, this time they have decided to spread out the strike action that their members voted for and also implement a ban on overtime throughout the week. This will have bigger consequences for the rail industry.
How is the overtime ban impacting?
The effect on individual train companies varies based on their reliance on overtime and the level of employee absences, which tend to be greater during winter compared to summer.
Certain operators have implemented major proactive cancellations in response to the overtime ban, in order to minimize disruptions on the day of travel. Passengers are advised that trains may be altered or cancelled at short notice.
Several trains departing early on the first day were called off. These consisted of South Western Railway trains from London Waterloo to Southampton, Great Western Railway trains from London Paddington to Weston-super-Mare via Bristol and Carmarthen via Cardiff and Swansea, and TransPennine Express trains from Manchester and Newcastle to Edinburgh. Additionally, several Manchester-Leeds-Hull services were also affected.
The following rail companies have announced preemptive cancellations:
On weekends, there will be a significant decrease in the level of service provided by C2C. Additionally, there will also be a reduction in train availability during weekdays.
Chiltern Railways has experienced a significant decrease in service on the majority of its routes, and some branch lines have no train service at all. Furthermore, all routes will have an earlier-than-usual finish. On December 1st, the company has notified that they will be unable to provide transportation to the England (Lionesses) vs Netherlands event at Wembley Stadium. As a result, there will be no trains stopping at Wembley Stadium throughout the day.
The Gatwick Express will not be running from December 1st to 9th, except for 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 or entirety of the week.
Revised schedule will have reduced services and may have altered start and end times.
Thameslink cautions: “There will be a modified schedule with decreased frequency in effect.”
When and where will the strikes occur?
Aslef train drivers are going on strike on specific days for specific train operators.
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.
On Monday, December 4th, there will be no strikes.
On December 5th, the services for C2C and Greater Anglia will be operating.
On December 6th, Wednesday: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, and South Western Railway.
On December 7th, Thursday, CrossCountry and GWR made an announcement.
On December 8th, Friday, Northern and TransPennine Trains services will be running.
Both ScotRail and Transport for Wales are not part of the conflict.
What will be the impact?
According to past occurrences, these are the probable consequences if drivers go on strike. Please confirm closer to the date of travel for accuracy.
On December 2nd, East Midlands Railway will not be running any trains. They advise passengers to not travel and note that there will be no buses available as alternative transportation.
LNER (December 2nd): Consistent train services on primary routes connecting London King’s Cross with Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
Avanti West Coast (December 3rd): There will be no train services. Additionally, services on the days before and after the strike will also experience disruptions.
There will be no trains on December 3rd in Chiltern.
There will be no train services on West Midlands Railway on 3 December.
On 3 December, there will be no train services on the Great Northern line.
On December 3rd, there will be no train services on Thameslink.
- to Alton
On December 5th, there will be no train services to Alton.
On December 5th, Greater Anglia will have a restricted schedule connecting London Liverpool Street to Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Southend Victoria, Cambridge, and Stansted airport.
There will be no train service on December 6 in the Southeast region.
On December 6th, there will be a nonstop shuttle service between London Victoria and Gatwick airport from 6am to 11:30am, as there will be no other trains running.
On December 6th, the Gatwick Express will not be running. However, the Southern airport shuttle will still be available for transportation.
On December 6th, South Western Railway will offer a main service of four trains per hour from London Waterloo to Woking. One train per hour will continue to Guildford and Basingstoke. A shuttle will operate between Basingstoke and Salisbury. Additional trains will travel between Waterloo and Feltham via Richmond and Twickenham.
On December 7th, there will be no train services. Due to the previous day’s industrial action, there may be a delay in services starting on Friday, December 8th.
On December 7th, Great Western Railway (GWR) will operate a main route between London Paddington and destinations such as 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 not be running until October 6th.
On December 7th, the Heathrow Express will have a limited schedule from 7am to 7pm.
There will be no train service on December 8th for the Northern line.
On December 8th, there will be no trains running on TransPennine Express.
Furthermore, aside from the disruptions during strike days, trains on consecutive days may also experience delays. During these days, trains are expected to have a high volume of passengers as people adjust their travel plans to avoid the effects of the strike.
Can a worst day exist?
On Sunday, December 3rd, traveling north-south was difficult due to chaos caused by the Aslef strike. The majority of services on the West Coast main line, which links London Euston to the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales, and southern Scotland, were suspended.
Many people would usually take LNER on the East Coast main line as an alternative route. However, due to scheduled Network Rail engineering work, the line south of St Neots in Cambridgeshire was completely closed. To accommodate this, rail replacement buses were arranged between St Neots and Bedford. Normally, passengers would then be able to catch a frequent Thameslink train to London. However, these trains were not running due to the Aslef strike.
Will every train be impacted at some point?
There will be no disruptions on the following dates for ScotRail, Transport for Wales, and these other operators.
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Elizabeth Line
- Grand Central
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
During days when rail companies that run similar services are on strike, trains may experience higher levels of congestion.
When GWR and CrossCountry are on strike, the transportation services between Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea operated by Transport for Wales may experience higher than normal levels of activity.
Certain stations may have restrictions on boarding or exiting trains to prevent overcrowding.
What do I need to get to an airport?
The Elizabeth Line and the Tube provide constant access to London Heathrow. Despite the Heathrow Express strike on December 7th, there will still be a limited service from 7am to 7pm.
Passengers using London Gatwick are impacted twice: once on Sunday 3 December, when Thameslink train drivers will walk out, and Wednesday 6 December when it’s the turn of Aslef members working for Gatwick Express and Southern. But for main line passengers between London, Gatwick and Brighton, there will still be a fair number of trains running. They may be very crowded, especially in the mornings. No Gatwick Express trains will run at all.
On Tuesday, December 5th, London Stansted will have a limited service every hour due to an overtime ban. The remaining days will also experience “service alterations.”
The railway is a way to reach Luton airport from London every day, even during strikes. On Saturday, December 2nd, when East Midlands Railway (EMR) was on strike, Thameslink was still in operation. However, 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 departing from Birmingham New Street station.
On Sunday, December 3rd, Manchester airport could only be reached by rail 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 as usual between London St Pancras International and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Do you anticipate any future difficulties?
Mick Whelan, the leader of Aslef, stated to The Independent: “We will continue to fight until a resolution is reached.” He believes that this is a political disagreement that may only be settled with a change in government.
The majority of members from the main rail union, RMT, have agreed to accept a 5% pay increase without any conditions and continue with discussions at the local level, with the guarantee of no additional strikes for six months.
What other options are available?
As usual, the long-distance bus companies National Express, Megabus, and FlixBus will continue to operate. However, there is limited availability of seats and prices have increased.
Flights within the UK from London, Bristol, Exeter, and Southampton to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow may experience a price hike during the scheduled strike days.