Travel disruption expected in England as train drivers' strike begins

Train drivers across England started a week-long ban on overtime on Friday which is expected to disrupt services

The first in a series of fresh strikes by train drivers will cause travel chaos in parts of England over the weekend.

Members of the train drivers union Aslef at East Midlands Railway and LNER will walk out on Saturday, followed by strikes in the coming week at other train operators.

Trains could be disrupted on the evening before and morning after strikes.

Train drivers across England started a week-long ban on overtime on Friday which is expected to disrupt services.

The action follows news that Aslef members have voted overwhelmingly to continue taking industrial action for the next six months.

East Midlands Railway said it will not operate services on any of its routes on Saturday, while the overtime ban may cause some late notice cancellations and changes to train times.

Passengers were advised to check before travelling.

LNER said it will run a reduced timetable between Edinburgh and London and Leeds and London on Saturday.

Because of planned engineering work on Sunday there will be no trains to or from London King’s Cross.

A statement said: “If travel is essential, bus replacements are in place, but with extremely limited availability and will take considerably longer (approximately 120 minutes).”

Strikes against other train operators will be held on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have accepted a deal to resolve their dispute over pay and conditions but the Aslef row is deadlocked.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said he has not had any talks with employers since April, and has not met Transport Secretary Mark Harper since last December.

“We are in this for the long haul. Our members have not had a pay rise for nearly five years.

“Train drivers are fed up and frustrated that their employers failed to negotiate in good faith.

“These are key workers who kept the country moving throughout the pandemic. They are simply asking for a fair and decent deal.”

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A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said: “This unnecessary and avoidable industry action called by the Aslef leadership has been targeted to disrupt customers and businesses ahead of the vital festive period.

“It will also inflict further damage on an industry that is receiving up to an additional £175 million a month in taxpayer cash to keep services running, following the Covid downturn.

“As the level of service varies across the country our advice is to check before you travel.”

The RDG said the latest offer of an 8% pay increase over two years would take average salaries from almost £60,000 a year to almost £65,000.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “Following RMT members voting to overwhelmingly accept the train operators’ pay offer, Aslef is now not just the only rail union still striking but the only union not to even put an offer to its members.

“They are instead choosing to cause more misery for passengers and the hospitality sector this festive period.

“The fair and reasonable offer that’s long been on the table would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 for a 35-hour, four-day week.

“Aslef’s leadership should follow in the footsteps of all the other rail unions by doing the right thing and giving their members a say on that offer.”