UK train strikes cause misery for travellers on last weekend of summer holidays

Services in some parts of England will be brought to a complete standstill

Powered by automated translation

Travel chaos is affecting rail passengers in the UK as strikes cause major disruption and bring services in some parts of the country to a complete standstill.

Members of Aslef, the train drivers' union, who work at more than a dozen train companies, are staging a 24-hour walkout in a dispute over pay and conditions that will cripple services.

Upheaval will continue on Saturday when up to 20,000 RMT union members at 14 operators will down tools.

Service levels will vary across England, and some journeys into Scotland and Wales will be affected.

On Friday morning trains were running from Euston station in London to Watford, Hertfordshire, but lines to Birmingham, Manchester and other cities were cut off. London Underground services have not been affected.

Passengers are advised to check before they travel.

The dispute started more than a year ago and remains deadlocked, with no talks planned and no sign of a breakthrough.

Both Aslef and the RMT blame the government for blocking any chance of a deal by refusing to allow train operators to make an offer they can recommend to their members.

Ministers deny they are intervening in the dispute.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said his members were not willing to give in and are prepared to continue picketing for years to come until their demands are met.

“We’re here 14 months after we first started,” he told Sky News. “If we get to February of next year it will be five years for some of our members, half a decade, without a pay rise. If it takes another five years we will continue going to get a resolution to the situation.”

Mr Whelan said the last time he met with Huw Merriman, the transport secretary, was in January and he has not had contact with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) since April.

The RDG claim Mr Whelan is refusing to put a “fair and reasonable” offer to his members.

The RDG is speeding up proposals to close about 1,000 ticket offices in England in plans that have further angered rail staff.

Mr Whelan said the attempt to close the offices is “recklessly endangering the travelling public and staff at the railway” and put it down to the government wanting to cut costs.

An RDG representative said strikes by Aslef are “unnecessary and will cause more disruption to passengers looking to enjoy the end of the summer holidays”.

The representative accused Mr Whelan of having his “head in the sand” by refusing to put its offer to his members.

“The offer would increase the average driver base salary for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 [$76,059] to nearly £65,000 by the end of 2023,” the RDG said.

“We want to give our staff a pay increase, but it has always been linked to implementing necessary, sensible reforms that would enhance services for our customers.

“We urge the Aslef leadership to acknowledge the substantial financial challenges facing the rail industry and work with us to achieve a more dependable and robust railway system for the future.”

A Department for Transport representative accused Aslef and RMT of co-ordinating strikes “with the aim of causing as much disruption as possible on the last weekend of the summer holidays”.

The department said a fair offer remains on the table for both unions.

Updated: September 01, 2023, 10:01 AM