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Aslef, the union representing train drivers, has initiated another phase of strikes in the ongoing and contentious conflict with 14 train operators in England regarding salary and work agreements.
The secretary general, Mick Whelan, stated: “We are taking strike action once more not to cause inconvenience for passengers, but to demonstrate our frustration with the stubbornness of the government and the lack of sincerity from the private companies that employ us.”
Train operators are being asked to provide a salary increase without any conditions, and then engage in discussions at a regional level to update their methods of operation. This will result in additional costs for the employers, according to Aslef. The union claims that certain train drivers have not received a raise in the past five years.
The RDG, which represents the train operators, states that any salary increase will depend on implementing significant changes.
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 levels. The subsidy for the railway is now at £16,300 per minute, which is £4,000 higher than before the pandemic.
The union has not engaged in discussions with the RDG since April or with government officials since January.
According to a representative from the Department for Transport, it is unfortunate that Aslef is causing disruptions for the public and hospitality establishments during the start of the holiday season. Rather than going on strike, Aslef should consider following the lead of other railway unions and allowing their members to vote on the proposed fair pay agreement.
The Rail Delivery Group’s representative stated that the strike organized by Aslef’s leaders is completely unnecessary and will unfortunately cause disruptions for customers and businesses during the important holiday season.
Aslef is currently engaged in a disagreement with the rail companies that have been hired 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 railway service that covers the south-western region, including 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 working overtime for nine consecutive days has resulted in the cancellation of thousands of events from December 1st to 9th.
Labor union members are currently engaged in a strike that spans from December 2nd to December 8th. During this time, specific regions of the country will be targeted for disruption, with the exception of Monday, December 4th. As a result, numerous train operators have announced cancellations for the affected strike days.
Aslef says: “We have, in the past, called everyone out on the same day; by spreading the strike action, for which members overwhelmingly voted, coupled with our ban on overtime – action short of a strike – across the week, the ramifications for the rail industry will be greater.”
What impact is the overtime ban having?
The effect on individual train companies varies based on their reliance on overtime and the level of employee illness, which tends to be greater during the winter months compared to summer.
Several operators have implemented large-scale proactive cancellations in response to the overtime ban and to minimize disruptions on the day of travel. Passengers are advised that trains may be subject to last-minute changes and cancellations.
Several trains were canceled on the first day, including South Western Railway from London Waterloo to Southampton, Great Western Railway 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, a number of Manchester-Leeds-Hull services were affected.
The rail companies that have announced proactive cancellations are:
Weekend services will be significantly reduced, and weekday schedules will also see a decrease in the number of trains running.
Chiltern Railways has implemented significant cuts to its services on most routes, and some branch lines will not have any trains running at all. The company also announced that all routes will have earlier finishing times than usual. On 1 December, Chiltern Railways issued a warning that they will be unable to provide service 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 have trains running from 1 to 9 December, except for Sunday 3 December when regular service will resume. During this time, Southern trains will connect London Victoria and Gatwick airport despite the ongoing industrial action.
The London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway have announced that several branch lines, including those between Bletchley and Bedford, Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, and Leamington Spa and Nuneaton, will be closed for most or all days.
The schedule has been modified to include less services. There is a possibility that the services may begin later and end earlier than usual.
Thameslink cautions: “There will be a modified timetable with reduced frequency in effect.”
When and where will the strikes take place?
Aslef train drivers are going on strike on the following dates for the following train companies.
On Saturday, December 2nd, services will be provided by East Midlands Railway and LNER.
On Sunday, December 3rd, Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink, and West Midlands Trains will all be in operation.
On Monday, December 4th, there will be no strikes.
Delays on C2C and Greater Anglia routes on Tuesday, December 5.
On December 6th, the following train companies will be operating: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, and South Western Railway.
- will be rerouted
On Thursday, December 7th, CrossCountry and GWR will have a different route.
On Friday, December 8th, train services from Northern and TransPennine were cancelled.
Neither ScotRail nor Transport for Wales are participating in the conflict.
What will be the outcome?
From past occurrences, these are the probable effects of drivers going on strike. It is recommended to check closer to the date of travel for confirmation.
On December 2, East Midlands Railway will not be operating any trains. It is advised to not travel and note that there will also be no Rail Replacement Bus services available.
On December 2nd, LNER will have trains running regularly on main routes connecting London King’s Cross to Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
There will be no train services on December 3rd for Avanti West Coast. Additionally, services on the days before and after the strike will also be impacted.
On December 3rd, there will be no train service on the Chiltern line.
There will be no train service on West Midlands Railway on December 3rd.
There will be no train service on the Great Northern line on December 3rd.
- On December 3rd, Thameslink will not be operating any trains.
On December 5th, there will be no train services.
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.
On December 6th, there will be no train service in the southeastern region.
On December 6th, Southern will only offer a direct shuttle service between London Victoria and Gatwick airport from 6am to 11:30am. All other train services will not be available.
On December 6th, there will be no Gatwick Express trains running. However, the Southern airport shuttle will still be available for transportation.
On December 6th, South Western Railway will operate a primary service of four trains every hour connecting London Waterloo and Woking. One train per hour will also travel to both Guildford and Basingstoke. A shuttle service will run from Basingstoke to Salisbury and there will be trains between Waterloo and Feltham through Richmond and Twickenham.
There will be no trains on December 7th. Due to the strike the previous day, services may begin later than usual on Friday, December 8th.
On December 7th, Great Western Railway (GWR) will have a primary route operating between London Paddington and Oxford, Bath, and Bristol. There will also be a connection from Bristol to Cardiff. However, only a restricted service will be available on the branch lines in Devon and Cornwall. The Night Riviera sleeper train from London to Penzance will not be running until October 6th.
From the 7th of December, the Heathrow Express will have a limited schedule from 7am to 7pm.
On December 8th, there will be no train services available.
On December 8th, TransPennine Express will not be operating any trains.
On days when strikes occur, there may be additional disruptions as well as potential impact on train services on surrounding days. These days are also expected to have a high volume of passengers due to people rearranging their travel plans to avoid the strike.
Does the concept of a “worst day” exist?
On Sunday, December 3rd, the West Coast main line experienced major disruptions due to a strike by the Aslef union. This affected travel between London Euston and various regions in the north.
One possible option for travelers is typically taking the LNER train on the East Coast main line. However, due to prearranged Network Rail maintenance, the line was completely shut down south of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. To compensate, buses were arranged to transport passengers between St Neots and Bedford. However, the frequent Thameslink trains that would normally run to London were not operating due to the Aslef strike.
Will all trains experience some form of impact at a certain point?
During all strike dates, passengers can anticipate regular service from ScotRail, Transport for Wales, and the following operators:
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Elizabeth Line
- Grand Central
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
When there is a strike by rail companies providing similar services, trains tend to be more congested.
When GWR and CrossCountry workers go on strike, there may be increased traffic on Transport for Wales routes connecting Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea.
To prevent overcrowding, certain train stations may limit boarding or exiting of trains.
What do I need to get to an airport?
The Elizabeth Line and Tube provide continuous access to London Heathrow. Although there may be a strike affecting the Heathrow Express on December 7th, there will still be a limited service available from 7am to 7pm.
Passengers traveling through London Gatwick experienced disruptions twice due to separate strikes. The first strike occurred on Sunday, December 3rd by Thameslink train drivers, followed by another on Wednesday, December 6th by Aslef members working for Gatwick Express and Southern. Despite this, there were still a decent number of trains operating between London, Gatwick, and Brighton, although they were quite full, particularly in the mornings. It’s important to note that there will be no Gatwick Express trains running from December 1st to 9th due to the strikes.
On Tuesday 5 December, London Stansted had a limited service per hour due to an overtime ban. Service changes were also implemented on all other days during this period.
During the strike at East Midlands Railway (EMR) on Saturday, December 2nd, Luton airport was still reachable by rail from London. On the next day, Thameslink was not operational, but EMR was still running.
On Saturday, December 2nd, Birmingham Airport could only be reached by rail through Transport for Wales from Birmingham New Street.
On Friday, December 8th, the only way to access Manchester airport by rail will be through an hourly connection on Transport for Wales that goes to and from central Manchester, Chester, and North Wales.
Will Eurostar experience any impact?
On days of strike, connecting trips may be challenging, but trains will still operate normally between London St Pancras International and destinations such as Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Are there any other potential issues in the future?
According to The Independent, Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan stated that they are committed to the cause until it is resolved. He sees it as a political disagreement that may only be settled with a change in government.
The majority of members from the primary railway union, RMT, have overwhelmingly agreed to a 5% pay offer with no conditions, followed by discussions on a local level. They have also been promised no additional strikes for a period of six months.
What other options are available?
As usual, the long-distance bus companies, National Express, Megabus, and FlixBus, continue to operate. However, available seats are becoming limited and ticket prices are increasing.
The cost of flights within the UK from London, Bristol, Exeter, and Southampton to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow may go up during the scheduled strike days.