The train drivers’ strike will seriously disrupt rail services

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Aslef picket line. Photo Victoria Jones PA Images

Rail services will be severely disrupted today due to a strike by train drivers in the latest outbreak of industrial unrest in the industry.

Members of the Aslef drivers’ union from seven train operators went on strike for 24 hours for more pay.

The Rail Delivery Group said the industrial action had been timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the start of the new season for most EFL clubs.

Parts of the rail network will be disrupted on Saturday and Sunday morning.

The strike hits 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 Mainline between Swansea and Newport are expected to be very busy as there is no Great Western Railway (GWR) service between Cardiff and Swansea, and an extremely limited service between Cardiff and Newport.

TfW will offer additional services along this route to provide additional capacity.

Services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham, where the 2022 Commonwealth Games are taking place, will also be particularly busy as the West Midlands Railway will also not operate on Saturday.

GWR says most parts of its network will not have train service on Saturday and advises passengers to make alternate travel arrangements and only travel when 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 end 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 (including via the Kennet Valley) and London Paddington to Oxford.

Disturbance

Steve Montgomery, Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are truly disappointed that Aslef management has decided to impose even more uncertainty and disruption on passengers and businesses in a week which has already seen an RMT strike.

“Millions of passengers will have their weekend plans disrupted, especially those who are working, or traveling to the Commonwealth Games or the first football match of the season.

“While we are doing everything we can to minimize disruption, if you are traveling on the affected routes, please plan ahead and check the latest travel advice.

“If you are unable to travel, you can use your ticket either the day before or until August 2 inclusive, otherwise you can modify your ticket or request a refund.

“Like any service or business, we need to move with the times and cannot continue to ask taxpayers or passengers for more money when we should instead be responding to the huge changes in travel behavior post Covid.

“By making these necessary reforms such as ending the reliance on weekend volunteer work, we are improving punctuality, having more resilient Sunday services and using these savings to give our employees 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 Aslef management to resume talks so we can reach a deal that is fair to staff. and taxpayers, and that guarantees a bright, long-term future for our railroad.

Dead end

Further strikes are planned next month by Aslef and the RMT amid deadlock over wages, 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 also use public transport, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike, but we have been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been pushed to do this by the Conservative government.

“Many of our members, who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods across the country during the pandemic, haven’t had a pay raise since 2019.

“With inflation north of 10%, that means these drivers have taken a real 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 is not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you are not worse for three consecutive years.

“Especially as the rail companies are doing very well, thank you, outside of British railways, with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders and big salaries for managers, and the train drivers don’t want work longer for less.

“Wage increases do not fuel inflation.

“Excessive profit is, but the government is not asking companies to cut profits or dividend payouts to help manage inflation.

“Wages chase prices, they don’t drive them up.

“We don’t see why we should forgo a pay rise to keep pace with inflation and help privatized railroads make even bigger profits to send overseas.”

Invitation

Mr. Montgomery extended an open invitation to Aslef leaders to meet with him to hold “meaningful talks” to resolve the dispute.

He said: “I am ready and willing to speak to the leaders of Aslef today, tomorrow or even any time next week.

“They should cancel tomorrow’s action and talk to us instead.

“What our passengers and our staff expect of us is that we talk and find a way to solve this problem.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will be frustrated that, once again, their plans will be disrupted.

“It is crucial that the talks continue to find a solution that prevents passengers from being continually drawn into this social conflict.

“Information will be critical throughout the disruption. Rail companies should continue to review specific areas for improvement that we identified during the June strikes regarding refunds, compensation and clarity of information. We will again monitor the impact on passengers and those who cannot travel.

CrossCountryTtrains says it will operate a normal service on Saturday, but warns passengers of disruptions if they have a connecting ticket 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 warns trains will be busier than usual due to people traveling to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Passengers are also warned of potential disruptions due to the impact of the strike on connecting services.


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