Rail passengers around Great Britain continue to face disruption this week, with train drivers striking on four separate days in different parts of the network and refusing to work overtime throughout.
The effects of the industrial action by the Aslef union in the long-running pay dispute will vary significantly by region, with icy weather compounding the misery for rail users in places.
The action is taking place across England at all the train operating companies contracted to the Department for Transport, with some cross-border rail services into Wales and Scotland also affected. Passengers on every route have been urged to check before travelling because last-minute disruption is likely.
While most operators said they would attempt to run a normal timetable despite the overtime ban, some have been significantly affected. Chiltern and C2C cut trains in advance, while TransPennine Express and South Western cancelled more than 50 trains on Monday, with heavy rainfall affecting some lines.
Strikes resume on Tuesday with a 24-hour stoppage by drivers at C2C and Greater Anglia. C2C, the Essex commuter service, will run no trains at all. Greater Anglia will run a limited service, with only a few trains operating on main lines to London, including the Stansted Express.
More strikes will follow at Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express and South Western on Wednesday; at CrossCountry and GWR on Thursday; and at Northern and TransPennine Express on Friday.
The wave of rolling strikes started at the weekend, stopping all trains on East Midlands and most on LNER on Saturday, and all on Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink and West Midlands on Sunday.
Although members of the RMT union last week voted to end strikes, at least temporarily, and accept a partial pay deal, there has been no sign of any end to the drivers’ dispute.
Talks between the Aslef union and employers – in rail or indirectly in government – have not been held since April when the leadership rejected as “risible” an offer of two 4% annual increases for 2022 and 2023, with changes to working conditions.
Drivers voted last week overwhelmingly to renew the union’s mandate for strikes for another six months. The union’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, said it was “in this for the long haul” after going nearly five years without a pay rise.
Ministers and the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, have described the offer as fair and affordable. It would take average driver pay to almost £65,000 a year.
Meanwhile, MPs warned ministers that plans to introduce minimum service levels (MSLs) during strikes as soon as possible could backfire. The cross-party transport select committee’s chair, Iain Stewart, said that the sector had told them they needed guidance from government and the committee was “disappointed by the government’s half-hearted response” to its recommendations.
“There is a risk of MSLs worsening worker-employer relations and that, as a result, MSLs could end up making services less reliable. We will watch with interest how the Department [for Transport] intends to assess the success of MSLs as the regulations come into force,” he added.