- By Katy Austin and Lora Jones
- BBC Affairs
Rail passengers face disruption on Friday as railway workers take part in their latest major strike.
Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef, who work in more than a dozen railway companies, walked off the job and will refuse to work overtime on Saturday.
Meanwhile, up to 20,000 RMT union members across 14 operators will strike on Saturday in a long-running dispute.
Passengers are advised to check before traveling and service levels vary across England.
Some travel to Scotland and Wales will be affected.
Some operators do not offer any service on Friday. They include Northern, Avanti West Coast, Transpennine, Southern and Thameslink.
On Saturday, less than half the trains will run and some services will be subject to short-term cancellation, according to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents rail companies.
Evening services on some lines are likely to be affected on the days before each strike, so travelers should plan ahead as much as possible, the statement said.
The RDG previously suggested the action was “deliberately designed” to disrupt passengers at the end of their summer holidays and just before the start of the school year.
Workers from 14 different rail companies are expected to take part in strikes on Saturday. They are:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- Cross-country ski trains
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- Greater Anglia
- Northern Trains
- South East
- South West Railway
- Transpennine Express
- West Midlands Trains
- GTR (including Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern)
Aslef and the RMT union, which represents other railway workers, have organized a series of strikes since last summer that have paralyzed much of the network.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said he believed further industrial action was “inevitable”.
“This action is driven by a reaction to the way we are treated by employers and by the government. We have no choice,” he told the BBC.
“One shot too many”
For Ataguba Aboje, who was hoping to get from London’s Euston station to Shrewsbury, “this is one strike too many in this country”.
Now that his train has been cancelled, he will have to extend his stay in the capital by 10 days, a cost he had not budgeted for.
“It’s horrible, it’s really distressing,” Mr Aboje told the BBC. “For now, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
But he said he didn’t think the government was doing enough to help train businesses and their staff to come to a solution.
“It disrupted the peace in life and the economy,” he said. “Everything is falling apart.”
Aslef is expected to step up its industrial action campaign in the fall on wages and proposed changes to working conditions.
In the spring, he rejected a two-year offer that would have given drivers a backdated pay rise of 4% for 2022 and 4% this year, in return for sweeping changes to working methods.
“[Our members] would much rather be here, fighting for their future…while seeking a pay rise to reduce the cost of living than to turn around and have no future at all,” Mr Whelan said.
Are you a train driver on strike? Or a passenger affected by the strike? Contact us by email.
Rail Delivery Group spokesman Robert Nisbet said the government “made it clear to us that we needed to reduce our cost base” after the pandemic changed passenger habits and left the rail sector with a large hole in his finances.
“We don’t have as many travelers returning to the train as expected, but we do have more leisure travelers and more weekend traffic,” he said.
“That’s why we’re bringing reform and these discussions to the bargaining table and that’s what we want the union to take seriously.”
Industry and government – which controls the stakes in the dispute – continue to call on unions to submit the latest offers to their members in a vote.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It is frustrating to see Aslef and RMT coordinating their strikes in an effort to cause as much disruption as possible over the last weekend of the summer holidays.”
They called the offers made to the workers “fair and reasonable” and said the industrial action “delays reforms that would ultimately benefit passengers, railway workers and taxpayers”.
Unions and disability groups have also denounced other proposed changes to working methods in the industry, such as the closure of ticket offices.
On Friday, a consultation on plans by government-backed rail companies to close many ticket offices will end.
Currently, nearly 300 stations in England run by rail companies under contract to the Department for Transport have ticket offices staffed full-time – 708 are part-time. Under the proposals, most would close.
Government-funded watchdog Transport Focus gathered public opinions and industry responses to the proposals before deciding whether to support or oppose the plans.
The study looked at issues such as retention of staff at stations, accessibility, waiting rooms, toilets and how customers who find it difficult to buy a ticket will receive help.
Disability campaigner Katie Pennick told BBC Breakfast that the suggested changes were “completely unreasonable” and that people with reduced mobility, for example, could not be expected to “climb and descend the platforms” in search of other personnel who can help them. ticket purchases.
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