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Aslef, the union representing train drivers, has initiated another phase of strikes in their ongoing and contentious disagreement with 14 English train companies regarding wages and job conditions.
The secretary general, Mick Whelan, stated: “Our decision to go on strike is not meant to inconvenience passengers, but rather to demonstrate our frustration with the inflexibility of the government and the lack of trust from the private companies that employ us.”
Train operators are seeking a salary increase without any conditions, and then wish to engage in discussions at a community level to update work procedures – which will result in an extra cost for the employers. According to Aslef, certain drivers have not received a pay raise in the past five years.
The RDG, representing train operators, claims that any raise in pay will only happen if significant changes are made.
The Department for Transport (DfT) will approve any agreement. Taxpayers will cover the costs. Ticket sales have decreased by approximately 20% compared to before Covid, and the subsidy for the railway is now at £16,300 per minute, which is £4,000 higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The union has not had any discussions with the RDG since April or with government officials since January.
A representative from the Department for Transport expressed disappointment in Aslef’s decision to disrupt the public and hospitality industries during the start of the holiday season. Rather than going on strike, Aslef should consider following the lead of other rail unions and allowing their members to vote on the proposed fair pay agreement.
A representative from the Rail Delivery Group stated that the strike called by Aslef’s leadership is unnecessary and will unfortunately cause disruptions for customers and businesses during the important holiday season.
Aslef is currently having a conflict with the railway companies that have been hired by the government to deliver railway services. These companies include:
- Avanti West Coast
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
London commuter operators:
- Greater Anglia
The train lines included in GTR are Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink.
The railway company operating in the south west region of England, including the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.
Operators who have a specific focus on the Midlands and northern regions of England.
- Chiltern Railways
- Northern Trains
- West Midlands Railway
What is planned?
The overtime ban that will last for nine days, from 1 to 9 December, is resulting in numerous cancellations.
The union members are participating in a strike from 2 to 8 December, targeting a different region each day (excluding Monday, December 4) in order to cause significant disturbance. As a result, numerous train operators are choosing to cancel all services on the specified strike days.
According to Aslef, they have previously gone on strike on the same day. However, they have now decided to spread out their strike action, which was supported by a majority of members, and also implement a ban on overtime throughout the week. This will have a larger impact on the rail industry.
What impact is the overtime ban causing?
The effect on train operators varies based on their reliance on overtime and the level of employee sickness, which tends to be greater during winter compared to summer.
Several operators have implemented significant preemptive 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.
There were numerous train cancellations on the initial day, such as South Western Railway’s route from London Waterloo to Southampton, Great Western Railway’s route 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 affected.
The rail companies that declared cancellations in advance are:
“The service is significantly reduced on weekends and there are also a number of trains cancelled during weekdays.”
Chiltern: There will be a significant decrease in service for most routes, and some branch lines will have no trains running at all. All routes will end earlier than usual. On 1 December, the company states that they will not be able to provide service to the England (Lionesses) vs Netherlands event at Wembley Stadium. No trains will stop at Wembley Stadium throughout the day.
Gatwick Express will not be running trains from December 1st to December 9th, except on Sunday December 3rd when a regular schedule will be in place. Southern trains will connect London Victoria and Gatwick airport during the period of industrial action.
The branch lines connecting Bletchley and Bedford, Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, and Leamington Spa and Nuneaton will be closed on the majority of days or possibly all days.
A revised schedule will be in effect, with reduced services. There is a possibility of delayed start times and earlier ending times for services.
Thameslink cautions: “There will be a modified schedule with fewer trains running.”
When and where will the strikes take place?
Aslef train drivers will be going on strike on select days for certain train operators.
On Saturday, December 2nd, both 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 Tuesday, December 5th, trains on the C2C and Greater Anglia lines will be running.
On Wednesday, December 6th, the following railway services will be operating: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, and South Western Railway.
- are running
On Thursday, December 7th, both CrossCountry and GWR will be in operation.
On Friday, December 8th, Northern and TransPennine Trains will be operating.
The disagreement does not involve either ScotRail or Transport for Wales.
What impact will it have?
Using past occurrences as a guide, these are the expected consequences when drivers go on strike. It is recommended to double check closer to the actual travel date for confirmation.
On December 2nd, East Midlands Railway will not have any trains running. They are advising people not to travel and there will be no buses available as an alternative.
On December 2nd, LNER will have consistent trains running on main routes connecting London King’s Cross to Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
On December 3rd, Avanti West Coast will not be running any trains. Additionally, services on the days before and after the strike will also experience disruptions.
- On December 3rd, there will be no train service on the Chiltern line.
- West Midlands Railway (3 December):
On December 3rd, West Midlands Railway will not be operating any trains. On December 3rd, West Midlands Railway will be closed.
- There will be no train service on the Great Northern line on December 3rd.
On December 3rd, there will be no train services on the Thameslink line.
- “On December 5th, there will be no train services for C2C.”
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 on the Southeastern line.
On December 6th, Southern will only have a shuttle service running between London Victoria and Gatwick airport from 6am to 11:30am. There will be no other train services available during this time.
On December 6th, the Gatwick Express train service will not be running. However, the Southern airport shuttle will still be available for transportation.
On December 6th, South Western Railway will have a main service with a maximum of four trains an hour traveling between London Waterloo and Woking. One train per hour will continue on to both Guildford and Basingstoke. Additionally, there will be a shuttle running from Basingstoke to Salisbury. Trains will also be operating between Waterloo and Feltham, going through Richmond and Twickenham.
There will be no trains running on December 7. Due to the previous day’s industrial action, services on Friday, December 8 may begin later than usual.
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, there will only be a restricted service on the branch lines in Devon and Cornwall. The Night Riviera sleeper service from London to Penzance will resume on Friday, October 6th.
On December 7th, Heathrow Express will have a limited schedule from 7am to 7pm.
There will be no trains on December 8th.
- On December 8th, TransPennine Express will not be running any trains.
On days when there is a strike, there may also be disruptions to train services on the surrounding days. These days are expected to be very crowded as passengers try to avoid the strike by changing their travel plans.
Can a worst day exist?
On Sunday, December 3rd, attempting to travel from north to south was quite chaotic. 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 suspended due to the Aslef strike.
Many people would typically choose to take the LNER route on the East Coast main line as an alternative. However, due to scheduled engineering work by Network Rail, the line was completely closed south of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. As a result, rail replacement buses were arranged between St Neots and Bedford, where passengers would normally transfer to a frequent Thameslink train to London. However, these trains were not running due to the Aslef strike.
Will every train experience an impact at some point?
There will be no disruptions to service on ScotRail, Transport for Wales, and other operators during the scheduled strike dates.
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Elizabeth Line
- Grand Central
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
During periods of strikes by competing rail companies, trains are expected to have higher passenger volumes.
In the event of a strike by GWR and CrossCountry, the transportation services between Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea provided by Transport for Wales may experience higher levels of activity.
Certain train stations may limit the boarding and/or disembarking of passengers in order to prevent overcrowding.
What do I need to get to an airport?
The Elizabeth Line and the Tube provide continuous access to London Heathrow. Despite the Heathrow Express strike on 7 December, there will still be a limited service available from 7am to 7pm.
London Gatwick passengers experienced disruptions twice: on December 3, when Thameslink train operators went on strike, and on December 6, when Aslef members working for Gatwick Express and Southern also went on strike. However, some trains were still operating for main line passengers traveling between London, Gatwick, and Brighton, although they were very crowded, particularly in the mornings. No Gatwick Express trains will be running at all from December 1-9.
On Tuesday 5 December, London Stansted had a limited service every hour, while all other days during the overtime ban experienced changes in service.
Luton airport remained accessible by rail, at least from London, on all days: on the strike days. On Saturday 2 December when East Midlands Railway (EMR) is on strike, Thameslink was running; the following day, Thameslink was not running but EMR was.
On December 2nd, Saturday, Birmingham airport could only be reached by rail through Transport for Wales from Birmingham New Street.
On Friday 8 December, Manchester airport will only be accessible by a once-per-hour connection on Transport for Wales to and from central Manchester, Chester, and North Wales.
Is Eurostar going to be impacted?
On days of strike, connecting journeys may be challenging, but trains will still operate normally between London St Pancras International and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Is there any potential issue in the future?
According to Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, the organization is committed to the cause for however long it takes. He believes that the issue at hand is a political one and may only be resolved with a change in government.
The RMT, the primary rail union, has received a large majority vote in support of a 5% pay offer with no conditions attached, to be followed by discussions at the local level. They have also been guaranteed no additional strikes for a period of six months.
Are there any planned rail strikes during the Christmas season this year?
The Aslef Executive Committee determines strikes and their next meeting is scheduled for December 11th. Technically, they could initiate a strike, but due to the two-week notice requirement, it would not start until Christmas Day. However, holiday maintenance projects will already cause significant disruptions until the beginning of the new year. Therefore, it is likely that there will be more strikes, but not until later in January.
What other options are available?
As usual, long-distance bus companies such as National Express, Megabus, and FlixBus continue to operate, although there are fewer available seats and prices are increasing.
The cost of flights within the UK from London, Bristol, Exeter, and Southampton to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow is expected to go up during the scheduled strike dates.