Train drivers’ strike to cause severe disruption to rail services
Rail services will be severely disrupted today because of a strike by train drivers in the latest outbreak of industrial unrest in the industry.
Members of the drivers union Aslef at seven train operators have walked out for 24 hours over pay.
The Rail Delivery Group said the industrial action has been timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the start of the new season for most EFL clubs.
There will be disruption to parts of the rail network on Saturday and into the morning of Sunday.
The strike is hitting Arriva Rail London, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
Transport for Wales (TfW) is not involved in today’s industrial action but services on the South Wales Main Line between Swansea and Newport are expected to be very busy because there are no Great Western Railway (GWR) services running between Cardiff and Swansea, and an extremely limited service between Cardiff and Newport.
TfW will be running additional services along this route in order to provide extra capacity.
Services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham, where the 2022 Commonwealth Games are taking place, will also be particularly busy as West Midlands Railway are also not operating on Saturday.
GWR says that most parts of its network will have no train service on Saturday and is advising passengers to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary.
An extremely limited service will operate between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington, Reading to Oxford and Reading to Basingstoke, and services will finish much earlier than normal.
Trains will continue to be disrupted on Sunday and passengers are urged to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary.
A reduced frequency service will operate on long-distance routes between London Paddington to Swansea, London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, London Paddington to Plymouth/Penzance (inc via the Kennet Valley) and London Paddington to Oxford.
Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has decided to impose yet more uncertainty and disruption for passengers and businesses in a week which has already seen a strike by the RMT.
“Millions of passengers will have their weekend plans disrupted, particularly those who are working, or going to the Commonwealth Games or the first football match of the season.
“While we will do all that we can to minimise disruption, if you are going to travel on the routes affected, please plan ahead and check the latest travel advice.
“If you’re not able to travel, you can use your ticket either the day before or up to and including August 2, otherwise you will be able to change your ticket or claim a refund.
“Like any service or business, we must move with the times and cannot continue to ask taxpayers or passengers for more money when we should instead respond to the huge changes in travel behaviour post Covid.
“By making these necessary reforms such ending the reliance on volunteer working at weekend, we improve punctuality, have more resilient Sunday services and use those savings to give our people a pay rise which has always been what we want to do.
“Further strikes will see our people out of pocket and mean less money to fund a pay rise, so we urge the Aslef leadership to resume talks so we can reach a deal that is fair to staff and taxpayers, and which secures a bright, long-term future of our railway.”
Further strikes are planned next month by Aslef and the RMT in the deadlocked row over pay, jobs and conditions.
“Strikes are always the last resort,” said Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef.
“We don’t want to inconvenience passengers, our friends and families use public transport, too, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the Tory government.
“Many of our members, who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic, have not had a pay rise since 2019.
“With inflation running at north of 10% that means those drivers have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years.
“We want an increase in line with the cost of living, we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.
“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row.
“Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain’s railways, with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers, and train drivers don’t want to work longer for less.
“Wage rises aren’t fuelling inflation.
“Excess profiteering is, but the Government isn’t asking companies to cut profits or dividend payments to help manage inflation.
“Wages are chasing prices, not putting them up.
“We don’t see why we should forego an increase in salary to keep pace with inflation and help the privatised train companies make even bigger profits to send abroad.”
Mr Montgomery issued an open invitation to Aslef’s leaders to meet with him to hold “meaningful talks” to resolve the dispute.
He said: “I am ready and willing to talk to the leadership of Aslef today, tomorrow or indeed anytime next week.
“They should call off tomorrow’s action and talk to us instead.
“What our passengers and our staff expect is for us to talk and work out a way through this.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will be frustrated that, again, their plans are being disrupted.
“It is crucial that talks continue to find a solution that avoids passengers being continually dragged into this industrial dispute.
“Information will be key throughout the disruption. Train companies should keep looking at the specific areas for improvement we identified from the June strikes about refunds, compensation and clear information. We will again monitor the impact on passengers and on those who cannot travel.”
CrossCountryTtrains says it will be running a normal service on Saturday but warns passengers of disruption if they have a connecting ticket on to Arriva Rail London, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern or West Midlands Trains.
Avanti West Coast is running a normal service on Saturday but is warning that trains will be busier than usual because of people travelling to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Passengers are also being warned of potential disruption due to the impact of the strike on connecting services.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.