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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

Train drivers to stage fresh 24-hour UK strike on 5 January

Aslef members on picket line at St Pancras station on 26 November
The action on 5 January will be Aslef’s sixth national strike since July. Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty Images

Train drivers have called a fresh 24-hour strike on 5 January in the long-running dispute over pay and conditions on UK railways.

The action at 15 train operators by members of the Aslef union falls between two 48-hour strikes by the RMT union on 3-4 and 6-7 January, meaning most trains will be wiped out for five consecutive days.

Services across Britain will be affected, from big commuter networks into London to long-distance services, with strikes at Avanti West Coast, LNER and Great Western likely to halt intercity trains to Scotland and Wales, even though drivers in both devolved nations are not in dispute.

The action, Aslef’s sixth national strike since July, will come towards the end of four weeks of disruption led by the RMT, along with the TSSA union. A series of strikes last week have been followed by an overtime ban that started on Sunday, severely disrupting some operations, and a 60-hour walkout starting on Christmas Eve.

The Aslef general secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “We don’t want to go on strike but the companies have pushed us into this place. They have not offered our members at these companies a penny – and these are people who have not had an increase since April 2019. That means they expect train drivers at these companies to take a real-terms pay cut – to work just as hard for considerably less – when inflation is running at north of 14%.”

Whelan said train companies had told the union “their hands have been tied by the government”, adding, “while the government – which does not employ us – says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.”

Aslef recently reballoted its members for a further six-month mandate for strikes, and said the vote in favour of action had increased, to 93% in favour on an average turnout of 85% across the 15 firms.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, said: “Further strikes – on top of those already announced by the RMT – will disrupt the new year travel plans of millions, taking even more money out of the pockets of railway staff.

“Industrial action has already cost the industry millions in lost revenue, and more strikes threaten the industry’s long-term sustainability. No one wants to see this strike go ahead, and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this damaging disruption.

“We want to work with Aslef to end this dispute that is harming passengers, the industry, and their members.”

The Department for Transport said the decision to call more strikes was “incredibly disappointing for businesses, commuters and families”.

A spokesperson added: “We urge Aslef to rethink, call off strikes and speak to employers to agree a new way forward, which will secure the long-term future of the industry, deliver for their members and pave the way for necessary reforms.”

The companies affected include Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Great Western Railway; Greater Anglia; GTR – Great Northern, Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express; LNER; Northern; Southeastern; South Western Railway (depot drivers only); SWR Island Line; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

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