A national rail strike will wreck millions of journeys on Wednesday, as the bad blood between ministers and unions continues.
Most rail services in England will be cancelled by the latest one-day stoppage by train drivers belonging to the Aslef union. A separate walk-out by members of the RMT union working for the Tube was called off on Tuesday afternoon.
The Aslef strike will be the 14th by train drivers since they began industrial action in a dispute over pay and working conditions in July 2022.
It affects 14 train operators, all directly contracted by the Department for Transport (DfT) to run services. Ministers will sign off the eventual settlement.
Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, told The Independent: “This is a political dispute caused by the government. If it had been an industrial dispute left solely to the employers and the unions, I think it would have been resolved by now.”
He called the changes stipulated as part of the deal as “basically a land grab for terms and conditions right across the board for a 20 per cent pay cut.”
Mr Whelan said the strike had been called to concide with the last day of the Conservative Party conference. He said industrial action would “go on until the government give us a solution”.
The transport secretary, Mark Harper, said train drivers had been made a fair pay offer that would seen average annual wages rise from £60,000 to £65,000 for a four-day week.
In a speech to the Tory conference in Manchester on Monday, Mr Harper said: “The union barons at the RMT and Aslef have since refused to let their members on train operators have a say on the fair offers on the table.
“They don’t care how many thousands of pounds their members lose in pay, as long as Mick Whelan still sits on Labour’s National Executive Committee.”
Most of the 14 train operators are cancelling all services, though LNER, GWR, Southwestern and Greater Anglia are offering skeleton services on their core networks.