Train drivers to strike in October, disrupting London Marathon, football and Tory party conference

Credit: PA Archive

Train strikes are set to resume in October and are likely to directly affect major events including the London Marathon.

Drivers at 12 companies are set to walk out on 1 October and 5 October in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, rail union Aslef confirmed.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said its members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will strike on October 1.

Government ministers and delegates travelling to the Conservative party conference at Birmingham from Sunday 2 October to Wednesday 5 October will be affected, as will fans travelling to watch Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday 1 October.

The RMT said the October 1 stoppage will bring the railway to an effective standstill, adding it had received no further offers from the rail industry to help come to a negotiated settlement.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan Credit: PA

October's strikes continue the industrial unrest that has hit several sectors this summer and was paused last week as a mark of respect following the Queen’s death.

Aslef said it is in for the “long haul” as the rail disputes remain deadlocked.

General secretary Mick Whelan said: “We would much rather not be in this position. We don’t want to go on strike – withdrawing your labour, although a fundamental human right, is always a last resort for this trade union – but the train companies have been determined to force our hand.

Affected train companies:

  • Avanti West Coast

  • Chiltern Railways

  • CrossCountry

  • Greater Anglia

  • Great Western Railway

  • Hull Trains

  • LNER

  • London Overground

  • Northern Trains

  • Southeastern

  • TransPennine Express

  • West Midlands Trains

“They are telling train drivers to take a real-terms pay cut. With inflation now running at 12.3% – and set, it is said, to go higher – these companies are saying that drivers should be prepared to work just as hard, for just as long, but for considerably less.

“The companies with whom we are in dispute have not offered us a penny. It is outrageous that they expect us to put up with a real-terms pay cut for a third year in a row.

“That’s why we are going on strike – to persuade the companies to be sensible, to do the right thing, and come and negotiate properly with us, not to run up and say, ‘Our hands are tied and the government will not allow us to offer you an increase’.

“Train drivers kept Britain moving – key workers and goods around the country – throughout the pandemic and we deserve to be treated better than this.

“That’s why we are calling on the companies – which are making big profits and paying their chief executives enormous salaries and bonuses – to make a pay offer to our members to keep up with the rise in the cost of living.”

LNER'S managing director, David Horne, said that the operator has suspended ticket bookings while it "reviews its plans".

A Rail Delivery Group said the strikes will "hugely inconvenience" passengers.  

“The strikes are not in the long-term interests of rail workers or building a sustainable rail industry," a spokesperson said. "We want to give our people a pay rise, but without the reforms we are proposing, we simply cannot deliver pay increases.  Revenue is still around 80% of pre pandemic levels, no business can survive that scale of upheaval without implementing change.  

Events set to be affected by October's strikes:

  • London Marathon - Sunday 2 October

  • Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Saturday 1 October

  • Conservative party conference - Sunday 2 October to Wednesday 5 October

“The actions of union leaders have very real consequences: every strike day takes more money out of their members’ pockets.  We want to see the industry and its people thrive - we are asking the unions’ leadership to do the right thing, call off these damaging strikes and work with us to make that happen.” 

When the strikes were first announced for September, the Department for Transport branded union leaders "self-defeating" and said they had chosen industrial action over "constructive talks".

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