Over six months after the national rail strikes began, the two biggest rail unions have planned to stop work for a total of five days at the start of 2023 – aimed at wrecking journey plans for a week between Monday 2 January and Saturday 8 January.
More than 40,000 members of the RMT union working for Network Rail and 14 train operators will walk out for 48 hours on 3 and 4 January, and again on 6 and 7 January.
On the intervening day, Thursday 5 January, thousands of train drivers belonging to the Aslef union who work for 15 train operators will strike.
The white-collar Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) will also take localised industrial action.
All the unions say they want a fair pay rise, assurances on job retention and no changes to working conditions without negotiation.
Will any trains be cancelled on 2 January?
Industrial action is currently having a serious effect on a number of train operators, notably South Western Railway and Chiltern Railways. Due to the current RMT overtime ban, both firms are curtailing their networks and reducing services up to and including Sunday 8 January.
In addition severe flooding has closed the West Coast main line between Carlisle and southern Scotland for a week, as well as shutting Sunderland station and causing local problems elsewhere.
And engineering work is continuing in some places up to and including 2 January
Cancellations specifically due to the national rail strike will begin on Monday 2 January ahead of the RMT strike – which begins at 0.01am on Tuesday for members working for train operators, and 2am on Tuesday for Network Rail members.
Late evening services are expected to be particularly affected.
What will happen on the 3 and 4 January strike days?
In many parts of Great Britain there will be no trains at all. Around 20 per cent of normal services will operate. Assume that trains will run only 7.30am-6.30pm unless otherwise stated and check before travelling.
These are the key services on the main train operators that will run on strike days, going clockwise from Kent around Great Britain.
Some routes will operate to/from London between 7am and 6pm: the High Speed 1 line from London to Ashford and suburban trains to Dartford (via both Bexleyheath and Sidcup) and Sevenoaks.
Trains every half-hour from both London Victoria and London Bridge to Brighton via Gatwick Airport, with a shuttle running between Brighton and Hove.
Some south London suburban trains will run, with links to Epsom Downs and Tattenham Corner in Surrey.
South Western Railway
Four trains per hour from London Waterloo to Windsor, Woking and Basingstoke, with two trains each hour continuing to Winchester and Southampton (via the airport).
Great Western Railway
GWR will run hourly trains to and from London Paddington on its key lines to Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads, extended every other hour to Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth.
Oxford will also be served from Paddington.
The Cardiff-Westbury line (via Bristol and Bath) will see trains, as will Slough-Windsor, Maidenhead-Marlow, Twyford-Henley and Reading-Basingstoke.
The Night Riviera sleeper service will not run on any strike night, nor the intervening days between 48-hour walk-outs. The first evening it is planned to operate is Sunday 8 January.
Transport for Wales
The national operator says: “The majority of rail services across the Wales and Borders network will be suspended on 3-4 and 6-7 January.
“Transport for Wales is not involved in the industrial action. However, the industrial action resulting from the dispute between the unions and Network Rail means we’ll be unable to operate rail services on Network Rail infrastructure.”
The only services will connect Cardiff with the Valleys – Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney – and a shuttle to Newport and back.
From the hub at Birmingham New Street there will be one train an hour on most of the key routes: Bournemouth via Reading and Southampton; Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh (though the service is sparse and finishing earlier, the further north you go); Leicester; and Manchester via Wolverhampton and Stafford.
The entire Midlands network north of Banbury is closed up to and including Sunday 8 January inclusive.
In the southern part there will be hourly trains linking London Marylebone with Oxford Parkway, Banbury and Aylesbury (via both High Wycombe and Amersham).
Avanti West Coast
“We plan to run one train per hour from Euston to each of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Preston,” says the operator.
“North Wales, Shrewsbury, Blackpool and Edinburgh have no Avanti West Coast services, and trains will not be calling at Stockport, Macclesfield, Stoke-on-Trent or Runcorn, so these stations will be closed.”
Some trains will extend north of Preston to Lancaster and Carlisle, but flooding has closed the line into Scotland.
First trains will run from around 8am or 9am, and last trains will depart London Euston for Manchester at 3.40pm, for Liverpool at 3.56pm and for Birmingham at 4.23pm.
West Midlands Railway/London Northwestern Railway
Trains linking Birmingham New Street with Lichfield Trent Valley, Redditch, Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Northampton and London Euston (the latter more cheaply than Avanti West Coast).
East Midlands Railway
Hourly links from both Sheffield and Nottingham to London St Pancras, giving a twice-hourly service from Leicester.
Trains will also run hourly between Corby and London St Pancras, Derby and Matlock, Derby and Nottingham, Sheffield and Nottingham, and Leicester and Nottingham.
Trains every half-hour from London St Pancras to Bedford via Luton airport, with additional stopping services from the capital to Luton.
London North Eastern Railway/Lumo/Grand Central/Hull Trains
LNER, the flagship operator on the East Coast main line, is planning its timetable on its core route between London King’s Cross, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh – with eight departures between the English and Scottish capitals between 7.27am and 12.30pm. Additional trains will serve York and Newcastle.
No LNER trains will run north or west of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Eight LNER trains each way will connect London King’s Cross with Leeds.
Lumo, which competes between London and Edinburgh, will run two trains during each strike day.
Grand Central, another “open-access” operator, will run twice daily between London, Doncaster and Wakefield, and three times between Northallerton, York and London.
Hull Trains, which normally links the Humberside city with London via Doncaster and Grantham, will run only London-Doncaster. It says: “We are providing buses for Hull and Brough passengers and taxis for Howden and Selby passengers to connect onto Hull Trains rail services starting in Doncaster.”
The national operator will be running a strike timetable right through the week, with a very limited service based around and between Edinburgh and Glasgow (which are connected by two fast trains an hour via Falkirk High). Other stations on the network: Helensburgh, Hamilton, Larkhall, Lanark, Shotts, Cowdenbeath, North Berwick, Tweedbank, Larbert, Milngavie and Springburn. Mostly they will be served by two trains an hour.
These train operators have overlapping networks, so both are combined here.
A basic Liverpool-Manchester Piccadilly-Manchester airport service will operate on the west side of the Pennines. On the east side, links from Leeds will run to Selby, York, Ilkley, Skipton, Bradford, Doncaster and Sheffield.
TransPennine Express will have a service on three lines on 3 and 4 January: Sheffield-Cleethorpes, Manchester Piccadilly-Huddersfield-Leeds-York and Preston-Manchester Airport. The pattern on 6 and 7 January is the same except that the Manchester-Huddersfield link will not run.
Two trains an hour between London King’s Cross and both Peterborough and Cambridge, with different stopping patterns.
Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester will have hourly fast trains to and from London Liverpool Street, plus additional stopping services between Colchester and London Liverpool Street.
The London-Southend Victoria line gets two trains an hour.
Cambridge gets an hourly service, while Stansted Airport will have two trains an hour – but with first departures after 7.30am and last departures before 6pm.
What trains are running on Thursday 5 January?
As train drivers belonging to the Aslef union walk out for the sixth day in the current dispute, the normal early disruption after an RMT strike will be barely discernible.
So far this year Aslef has staged five national strikes. On key intercity routes and many commuter routes, almost all services are annulled.
Expect near or total closedown on Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Greater Anglia, Great Northern, Thameslink, LNER, Northern, Southeastern and TransPennine Express.
Yet in Wales many trains will run – Transport for Wales is not in dispute with Aslef, and the strike at Network Rail is taking a day of respite. Transport for Wales says its trains will be busy, especially on the Carmarthen-Swansea-Cardiff-Newport-Gloucester and North Wales-Manchester links.
Although Aslef is not in dispute with ScotRail, the national operator is keeping the same limited schedule in place all week, including Thursday when the RMT strike is not happening.
ScotRail says: “It is hoped that some additional routes can be added.”
Of the companies that say they are running a service, Great Western Railway will shuttle between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, with links from Reading running to Oxford and Basingstoke.
Lumo has three trains each way between London and Edinburgh. Also on the East Coast main line, Grand Central and Hull Trains will run a near-normal service, with some trains curtailed at the start and end of the day.
Which trains are cancelled on Friday 6-Saturday 7 January?
The RMT action resumes, in particular aiming at wrecking travel plans on the first Saturday of the New Year.
While passenger numbers since the coronavirus pandemic remain alarmingly low, at weekends more people are using the trains than ever. The union aims to end its action with the most devastating effect.
Service patterns are likely to mirror those on the first two days of the strike – except on the East Coast main line, because of the planned closure of King’s Cross station due to planned engineering work on 7 and 8 January.
LNER will be running trains to and from a novel new hub, St Neots in Huntingdonshire.
What happens on Sunday 8 January?
Controlled mayhem, with cancellations of many early trains – in Scotland, some axed services continue to early afternoon.
The East Coast main line will not run to and from its London hub, King’s Cross.
Most passengers between London, Yorkshire and northeast England will travel via Sheffield on the East Midlands line – with trains likely to be extremely busy.
Any more strikes I need to know about?
If you decided to switch from rail to road because of the strikes on 3-4 January, you should be aware that members of the PCS union working as traffic officers and control room operators for National Highways in England will strike nationwide on those days.
The union says: “The action is likely to have an impact on signs and signals being set up to warn motorists of blockages and incidents, a reduced ability to respond and deal with collisions, and delays in re-opening carriageways and motorways.”
In London, members of the TSSA union will walk out on 12 January 2023 on the Elizabeth line. The union says the strike is “highly likely to bring the Elizabeth Line –Transport for London’s flagship service – to a halt in the first strike of its kind since the line was opened in May 2021.”
In addition a work-to-rule is in effect from 12 January to 28 February.
Lots of rail industry organisations are warning ‘Do Not Travel’. Are they right?
While journeys on strike days need to be carefully planned, there is no reason why, if trains are running to and from a station near you, you should not travel.