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Home ยป Train Strikes: Drivers Walk Out In Pay Row

Train Strikes: Drivers Walk Out In Pay Row

Image source, PA Media

Image caption, Passengers should check services before they travel, and allow extra time for their journey

By Noor Nanji

Business reporter at Euston station

Rail travel is being disrupted this weekend with train drivers at 11 companies walking out as part of a long-running pay row.

The strike by the Aslef union is affecting people travelling to Christmas markets and major sporting events.

Passengers are being advised to check before they travel.

However, strike action at London Overground has been suspended while union members consider a new pay offer.

Regret on both sides

Aslef, which represents drivers, wants wages to keep pace with the rising cost of living. It said talks with rail firms broke down after no pay offer was made.

“We regret that passengers will be inconvenienced for another day. We don’t want to be taking this action,” said Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, said it was “incredibly frustrated” that Aslef’s leadership had decided to take further strike action.

“We regret Aslef’s decision, which will cause real disruption to passengers and hit its members’ pay packets,” a spokesman said.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said that the strike was “disappointing” and unproductive, particularly due to its timing during the World Cup football tournament and a busy retail period.

“This dispute has gone on far too long and is not only causing disarray in people’s lives, but is harming the economy too. We urge union leaders to reconsider this action and instead work with employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward. The future of our railway depends on it,” the spokesperson added.

Which train companies are affected?

Avanti West Coast – no services on the dayChiltern Railways – no servicesCrossCountry – no servicesEast Midlands Railway – no servicesGreat Western Railway – an “extremely limited” serviceGreater Anglia – “heavily reduced” serviceLondon North Eastern Railway – “limited” serviceNorthern Trains – no servicesSoutheastern – no servicesTranspennine Express – “very limited” serviceWest Midlands Trains – no servicesIn addition to the 11 companies directly affected by the industrial action, Heathrow Express and London Northwestern Railway are also expected to be affected.

Operators that are not affected will run trains but they may be very busy.

Passengers are being told they should check services before they travel, and to allow extra time for their journey.

Great Western Railway (GWR), which will run only an extremely reduced service on the day, has warned customers travelling to Christmas markets and major sporting events to avoid taking the train.

It said that as a result of the strikes, no GWR trains will serve Bath Spa for the opening Saturday of the city’s Christmas market.

Fans heading to Cardiff for Wales’ Autumn International against Australia, or to Twickenham to see England take on South Africa, will also face disruption.

At the scene: Disruption for shoppers and sports fans

The strike is clearly having a big impact on people’s weekend plans, but Aslef believe there is strong public support for them.

At London Euston, the station is open. The Tube is running as normal, as is the London Overground – after strike action there was suspended at the last minute.

But all other rail services here have been heavily disrupted by today’s industrial action and the station is unusually quiet, compared with what you might normally expect on a Saturday afternoon.

This is a big shopping weekend, with Black Friday sales in full swing – ordinarily, there would be lots of people here heading to the shops in central London.

Elsewhere around the country, people travelling to Christmas markets, concerts and sporting events have been told to avoid taking the train.

That includes fans heading to Twickenham on Saturday afternoon to see England take on South Africa.

While it is a 24-hour strike, it’s expected that there could be some knock-on disruption into Sunday.

The latest Aslef industrial action follows four previous 24-hour strikes by drivers, which led to train services being cancelled and delayed.

There has been widespread disruption on the railways this year, with the RMT union also taking action at Network Rail and 14 train companies. Previous strikes by the RMT have had a major impact on services throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

Union bosses have said that with prices of food and energy soaring, companies should be paying their members more.

Meanwhile, railway bosses have said they want to give workers pay rises but insist changes are needed to “modernise” working practices and save money.

Aslef’s Mr Whelan told the BBC: “We don’t want other workers suffering, we don’t want the general public suffering going forward.

“But the only way we’ve got at this moment in time to reinforce our needs and other people’s needs is to take the action we’re taking.”

The UK has been hit by a wave of strikes this year, with unions across a range of industries, representing different job roles, staging walk-outs.

The disputes are over working conditions, pensions and pay. Prices are rising at over 11% per year, the fastest rate for 40 years. That means workers are seeing their living costs rising faster than their wages, leaving them worse off.

‘This affects my future’

Image source, Cameron Hughes

Cameron Hughes, 21, from Surrey works in a supermarket warehouse, and says the trains not running means he can’t see his girlfriend Natasha, who lives in Bournemouth.

He is particularly reliant on trains for travel this weekend as he is not allowed to drive, since his doctor suspects he may have epilepsy.

“If my epilepsy diagnosis is confirmed, then I’ll forever be reliant on trains for travel. I really hope the negotiations between train staff and operators work out as it affects my future.”

However, he does understand why workers are striking.

“Other countries like Japan have great train systems and have not seen a strike in a long time. I think the operating companies could improve conditions for train workers here,” he says.