Liverpool Lime Street station

UK Rail strikes coming up again

Liverpool Lime Street empty platforms during June 2022 strikes (NR) Image: Network Rail

A large part of the UK rail industry is bracing for a new wave of strikes. The long-standing dispute over pay, conditions, and job security remains far from resolution. The strike, initiated by the drivers’ union ASLEF, is set to affect 16 passenger train operating companies based in England, with stoppages scheduled between Tuesday, 30 January, and Monday, 5 February.

The dispute, which has now entered its third calendar year, has involved major unions in the rail industry. ASLEF’s plan for a fresh series of strikes follows a period of stalled negotiations. The Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, emphasised that nobody wins when strikes occur and urged ASLEF to collaborate in resolving the dispute.

Dates and operators affected

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan has accused government ministers of lacking the will to resolve the issue. He has called for a realistic offer from the government and train companies. The strikes will impact different operators each day, with drivers refusing to work overtime from Monday, 29 January, until Tuesday, 6 February. The tactic of targeting different companies on different days has become a familiar pattern to weary passengers.

  • Tuesday, 30 January will see drivers take action across the south of England at: Southeastern, Southern, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Thameslink, South Western Railway, and SWR Island Line.
  • On Wednesday, 31 January, the dispute moves to Northern Trains, and Transpennine Express, which will stop cross-border trains into Scotland.
  • Friday, 2 February, Greater Anglia, C2C, and LNER will be affected, stopping trains in the east and north of England, and along the East Coast Main Line, including Anglo-Scottish services.
  • On Saturday, 3 February, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, and East Midlands Railway will be stopped.
  • The final all-out stoppages are scheduled for Monday, 5 February at Great Western, CrossCountry, and Chiltern.

Below-inflation wage increase

ASLEF’s decision to continue strikes comes after rejecting a four per cent pay rise for two years in a row in April 2023. The union claims that drivers are being asked to sacrifice working conditions for a below-inflation wage increase. Despite calls for negotiations, there have been no formal talks since the rejection of the pay offer.

Mick Whellan (ASLEF)

The Rail Delivery Group stated that changes to ways of working are necessary for wage increases due to the financial challenges facing the industry and fairness to taxpayers. ASLEF argues that drivers should not be required to sacrifice working conditions for a wage increase below inflation.

Let members decide their own future

The government controls the funds available for negotiation, and while the RMT union, representing other rail workers, accepted a deal in November, ASLEF has not seen similar progress. Talks between ASLEF and individual operators are yet to commence, leaving the pay increase for the current year subject to negotiations.

The ongoing dispute has led to ASLEF drivers voting to continue strike action until the spring. The Rail Delivery Group spokesperson called on ASLEF to work towards a fair deal that rewards employees and makes necessary changes to enhance service reliability. The Department for Transport expressed disappointment in the strike action, urging ASLEF to let its members decide their own future through fair and reasonable offers. “Nobody wins when strikes impact lives and livelihoods”, said the Rail Delivery Group. They urged ASLEF to collaborate and deliver a fair deal that rewards employees while making changes for more reliable services.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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