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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Alan Jones

Rail passengers face fresh travel disruption as operators hit by strike action

Rail passengers will suffer fresh travel chaos on Saturday when more operators are hit by strikes by train drivers in a long-running pay dispute.

Members of Aslef at six companies will walk out, leaving some areas with no services all day.

Chiltern, TransPennine Express and Northern will not run any trains, while there will be reduced services on Great Western Railway (GWR), LNER and Heathrow Express.

LNER said it plans to run 35 services between London, Edinburgh and West Yorkshire, while no Heathrow Express trains will run before 7.25am or after 7pm.

GWR said services will be reduced, with many parts of its network having no trains all day. Engineering work means there will be no trains between London Paddington and Reading.

The strikes follow walkouts at Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway, CrossCountry and London NorthWestern on Friday, which crippled services.

Several train operators, including those serving busy commuter routes in the South East, will be hit by a strike on Monday.

A ban on overtime on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday at 16 train companies is also leading to cancellations and disruption.

The industrial action is part of a 22-month long pay dispute which has led to a series of strikes, which Aslef claims has cost around £2 billion to the rail industry, a “fraction” of what it says would resolve the dispute.

Picket lines will be mounted outside railway stations of affected operators on Saturday.

Aslef says it wants to meet with train companies and ministers to try to break the deadlock, claiming that the Government does not want to resolve the row.

No meetings have been held between the union and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) for a year, or with Transport Secretary Mark Harper since December 2022.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We’ve done 17 pay deals in the last 12 months across all sectors, nations and regions – freight, open-access, Elizabeth line, and Tube.

“And yet we only have a problem with one place and the place we have a problem with is the Westminster Government, who are interfering with our pay deals with the private companies we work for.”

He said the union’s primary issues were with the “bad faith” train operators who refuse to negotiate because of “political dogma” and the Government who “don’t care”.

Mr Whelan added: “What they want to do is rip up every term and condition we’ve got.”

A new law was introduced last year aimed at ensuring minimum levels of service (MSL) during strikes, but none of the train operators have applied to use it.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Aslef is the only rail union continuing to strike, targeting passengers and preventing their own members from voting on the pay offer that remains on the table.

“Having resolved disputes with all other rail unions, the Transport Secretary and rail minister have ensured that a pay offer is on the table – taking train drivers’ average salaries from £60,000 up to £65,000.”

A spokesperson for the RDG said: “Minimum Service Level legislation is one of many useful tools for managing strike disruption, but it is not a silver bullet.

“Operators’ guiding principle is always to make sure they can offer the best, most reliable services possible for their passengers on and around industrial action days, and to do that they need to make careful assessments of their own particular operational circumstances before deciding the best way forward.”

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