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The labor union representing train drivers, Aslef, has declared a new stage of strikes in their ongoing and contentious conflict with 14 train companies in England regarding wages, employment, and working conditions.
The union members plan to go on strike on various days between December 2nd and December 8th.
Every day (except for Monday, December 4th), a specific region of the country will be chosen to create the most disruption.
Furthermore, a nine-day restriction on working overtime will result in additional cancellations between 1st to 9th of December, including both dates.
The following are the main inquiries and responses regarding the railway strikes.
What is planned?
The Aslef union has announced that train operators will go on strike on the following dates:
On December 2, Saturday, East Midlands Railway and LNER will be operating.
On December 3rd, Sunday, the following train companies will be operating: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink, and West Midlands Trains.
- Monday 4 December: no strikes
On Tuesday, December 5th, there will be service from C2C and Greater Anglia.
On Wednesday, December 6th, the following train lines will be operating: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, and South Western Railway.
On Thursday, December 7th, there will be services provided by CrossCountry and GWR.
On December 8th, Friday, there will be trains running on the Northern and TransPennine lines.
ScotRail and Transport for Wales are not participating in the disagreement.
What will be the impact?
Using past occurrences as reference, these are the potential consequences of driver strikes. It is advised to check closer to the date of travel for confirmation.
There are currently no trains running on East Midlands Railway.
- LNER offers frequent trains on primary routes connecting London King’s Cross with Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
There are currently no trains running on Avanti West Coast.
- Chiltern: No trains.
- There are currently no trains running on West Midlands Railway.
There are currently no trains running on the Great Northern line.
- Thameslink: No trains.
There are currently no trains running.
Limited service on Greater Anglia connecting London Liverpool Street to Norwich, Ipswich, and Colchester; Southend Victoria; and Stansted airport.
- Southeastern: No trains.
Southern Rail is only providing a continuous shuttle service between London Victoria and Gatwick airport during the hours of 6am to 11:30am. There will be no other trains running during this time.
The Gatwick Express train service is not operating. However, the Southern airport shuttle will provide transportation.
The South Western Railway provides a main service of four trains per hour connecting London Waterloo to Woking. One train per hour also continues on to Guildford and Basingstoke.
- CrossCountry: No trains.
GWR: The main route will operate from London Paddington to Oxford, Bath, and Bristol, with a connection from Bristol to Cardiff. A minimal service will be available on certain branch lines. The Night Riviera sleeper service from London to Penzance will resume on Friday, October 6th.
- Northern: No trains.
There are currently no trains running on TransPennine Express.
On days of strike, trains may experience disruptions. Furthermore, trains on the days before and after the strike may also be impacted. These trains are expected to be overcrowded as passengers adjust their travel plans to avoid the strike.
What is the status of the overtime ban?
The effect on every train company will vary based on their reliance on overtime and the level of employee absences, which may be greater during the winter season compared to the summer.
Certain operators may initiate preemptive cancellations in order to factor in the overtime ban and minimize any disruptions on the day of.
Will there be an impact on all trains at any point?
No. On all the strike dates, passengers can expect normal service on ScotRail, Transport for Wales and these operators:
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Elizabeth Line
- Grand Central
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
During rail company strikes, trains are expected to be more congested due to parallel services being affected.
On the second of December, Saturday, there may be increased activity on Hull Trains, Lumo, and Grand Central due to the strikes occurring on East Midlands Railway and LNER.
During the strike by GWR and Avanti West Coast, there may be higher passenger volume on Transport for Wales routes connecting Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea, as well as between Crewe and Manchester.
Certain stations may limit boarding or exiting trains to prevent overcrowding.
What do I need to get to an airport?
London Heathrow will be easily reachable at all times via the Elizabeth Line and the Tube.
Travelers at London Gatwick Airport will experience two disruptions: one on Sunday, December 3 due to a strike by Thameslink train drivers, and another on Wednesday, December 6 when Aslef members working for Gatwick Express and Southern will also strike. However, there will still be a considerable number of trains operating for those traveling between London, Gatwick, and Brighton. These trains may be extremely crowded, particularly during morning rush hour.
It is probable that London Stansted will have a limited service on Tuesday, December 5th.
Luton airport can be reached from London every day, even during the strike days. When East Midlands Railway (EMR) is on strike on Saturday, December 2, Thameslink can be used instead. However, on the next day, Thameslink will not be in operation but EMR will be.
On Saturday, December 2, Birmingham airport will only be accessible by rail for those traveling from Birmingham New Street via Transport for Wales.
On Sunday, December 3rd, the only way to access Manchester Airport by train will be through Transport for Wales from Manchester Piccadilly, Chester, and North Wales.
Is Eurostar going to be impacted?
No, trains will operate as regularly scheduled between London St Pancras International and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. However, making connections on strike days may prove challenging.
Is it possible for the strike to be canceled?
It seems highly improbable. The two parties are not in close agreement. Since the start of national strikes in the summer of 2022, train conductors who are members of Aslef have gone on strike 14 times before.
Aslef is requesting a salary increase without any conditions for train drivers who have gone without an increase for four and a half years.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) had previously proposed a deal that was dependent on changes to how work is structured, but the union leaders declined it without giving members a chance to vote.
Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, stated that their goal is to successfully resolve this conflict and secure a substantial salary increase for train operators. It has been two years since their last pay raise, yet the cost of living has significantly increased during that period.
“Our members have expressed their opinions and we are aware of their thoughts. Each time they vote, which they have done in large numbers, to go on strike in order to obtain a fair increase in pay, it serves as a strong rejection of the offer that was presented in April.”
The offer from the RDG was an attempt to take control of all of our terms and conditions, and it was made knowing that it would not be accepted.
He criticized the transportation secretary, Mark Harper, for being “absent during this conflict”.
A representative from the Department for Transport expressed disappointment with Aslef’s choice to focus on the public and hospitality industries during the start of the holiday season.
During the pandemic, individuals who pay taxes gave a sum of £1,000 per household to safeguard the employment of train drivers. Rather than going on strike, Aslef should consider emulating the actions of other rail unions and allowing their members to vote on the reasonable salary agreement.
The Rail Delivery Group’s representative stated that the strike organized by Aslef leaders is completely unnecessary and will unfortunately cause disruptions for customers and businesses during the important holiday season.
The industry’s proposal, which aims to increase the average driver’s base salary for a four-day week from £60,000 to almost £65,000, is still available and reasonable.
“We strongly urge the Aslef leaders to present this to their members, return Christmas to our passengers, and bring an end to this harmful labor dispute.”
Is there any additional difficulty looming?
The primary railway union, RMT, is currently at odds with the train companies. However, they are voting on a proposed pay increase of 5 percent without any conditions, followed by discussions at the local level. It appears that this offer will be approved.
What other options are available?
As usual, bus companies that operate long-distance coaches – National Express, Megabus, and FlixBus – will continue to operate. However, available seats are becoming limited and ticket prices are increasing.
Airline ticket prices for domestic flights originating from London airports, Bristol, Exeter, and Southampton and heading to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow are expected to rise during the scheduled strike days.