Over the next six weeks, nine days of national rail strikes are planned, together with an overtime ban over Christmas and the New Year.
The December and January stoppages are planned by the RMT union.
But before that, members of the train drivers’ union, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef), have walked out at 11 train operators on Saturday 26 November. It is the fifth national strike by drivers in five months
The stoppage has triggered widespread cancellations across Britain. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators says: “Passengers should only travel by train if necessary.”
The problems were exacerbated at London King’s Cross station, terminus for the East Coast main line. A signalling failure was identified at 5am and led to chaos throughout the morning.
Yet many trains are running normally, with stations such as Clapham Junction unaffected by the train drivers’ strike – though others, including London Euston, are closed altogether.
These are the key points for passengers.
Which train operators are affected by the drivers’ strike on Saturday?
Six of them are primarily intercity operators: Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway (GWR), LNER and TransPennine Express.
The remaining five are mainly regional operators: Chiltern, Greater Anglia, Northern, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
Will any of them be running trains on Saturday?
Yes, as follows, mainly between 7.30am and 6.30pm unless otherwise stated:
“One train per hour on routes between London Liverpool Street and Colchester, Norwich and Southend Victoria and on the Stansted Express service. There will no trains at all on any other routes including the Cambridge to London Liverpool Street main line, or rail replacement buses for them.” The Stansted Express will run from 5am to 11.30pm, and other trains from 8am to 9 or 10pm.
Hourly service between London Paddington and Bristol. But trains will not call at Bath, the location of a popular Christmas market. Also links from Reading to Basingstoke and Oxford. Last trains may arrive as late as 9.30pm, but check in advance.
A service every two hours between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, and a single journey each way between London and Leeds. Planned engineering work between Peterborough and Doncaster will extend some journeys by up to 90 minutes.
The signalling failure at London King’s Cross station caused chaos throughout the morning, however.
Four trains each way between York and Manchester Piccadilly; three each way between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool Lime Street; and two each way between Sheffield and Cleethorpes. The firm says: “Only travel during the strike if journeys are absolutely essential and to seek alternative methods of travel where possible.”
Which operators have cancelled all trains?
Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Northern, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
Will there be disruption on Sunday?
Yes. Greater Anglia warns: “The network won’t be back to normal full service until early afternoon.”
GWR says that on Sunday: “Trains will continue to be disrupted. There may be some short-notice alterations and cancellations; and a later start to services in the morning. Trains that are operating will be extremely busy.”
TransPennine Express says: “We also expect travel to be disrupted the day after the planned strike.”
Which train operators are unaffected?
Many, including the rail firm that runs more trains than any other, GTR, which includes Southern and Thameslink.
This allows journeys to some Southeastern and East Midlands Railway stations to be served to and from London – such as Hastings and Bedford.
However, Great Northern operations to and from London King’s Cross station are chaotic due an earlier signalling failure. Dozens of trains have been cancelled, and those that are running are extremely crowded.
On the East Coast main line, Grand Central, Hull Trains and Lumo – serving Doncaster, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh – are also in disarray due to the Network Rail failure.
Even when services recover, journeys will be much longer due to engineering work, and trains more crowded as travellers move from LNER and TransPennine Express.
Also in the southeast, C2C is operating as usual between London and south Essex, and provides alternatives to Greater Anglia.
ScotRail and Transport for Wales are unaffected.
Trains that duplicate links on strike-hit operators are likely to be busier than normal. They include Transport for Wales trains on the Swansea-Cardiff-Newport corridor and between Crewe and Manchester, and ScotRail north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness.
What do the warring sides say?
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, insists: “We don’t want to be taking this action.
“But while the industry continues to make no offer – due to the dodgy deal they signed with the DfT [Department for Transport] – we have no choice but to take strike action again.
“With inflation now well into double figures, train drivers who kept Britain moving through the pandemic are now being expected to work just as hard this year as last year but for less.
“Most of these drivers have not had an increase in salary since 2019.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “It’s disappointing Aslef has yet again chosen self-defeating strike action when our railway is in urgent need of reform.
“This is a frustrating backwards step. More disruption is not only damaging to the public and Aslef’s own member’s livelihoods but threatens the future of the railway itself.”
A spokesperson for the RDG said: “We regret Aslef’s decision, which will cause real disruption to passengers and hit its members’ pay packets.
“Instead of staging more counterproductive strike action which increases the very real financial challenge the industry is facing, we ask them to work with us to secure both a pay deal and the changes needed it for it to thrive in the long-term and improve reliability across the network.”
What other disruption is planned?
Aslef has withdrawn all non-contractual overtime at LNER on the East Coast main line from Sunday 27 November. The union’s general secretary accuses the state-run firm of showing “a complete disregard for the agreements which shape our members’ working lives”.
Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express are both operating significantly reduced schedules until 10 December.
The RMT union plans eight days of strikes in December and January, plus an overtime ban in between.
More than 40,000 RMT members across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December and on January 3,4,6 and 7. There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from 18 December until 2 January, meaning the RMT will be taking industrial action for four weeks.