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Train drivers to begin overtime ban ahead of fresh strikes

Train drivers will launch an overtime ban on Thursday ahead of a series of fresh strikes which will cause travel chaos for passengers.

Members of Aslef are embroiled in a 20-month dispute over jobs with no sign of a breakthrough and no plans for any talks.

Passengers are being advised to check before they travel, with some areas having no services on strike days.

The overtime ban is from Thursday to Saturday and for 48 hours from next Monday which is likely to cause delays and cancellations to services.

A strike on Friday will hit Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands and London Northwestern.

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On Saturday train drivers will walk out on Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway, LNER, Heathrow Express, Northern and TransPennine Express.

A strike on Monday will affect c2c, Gatwick Express, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Great Northern, Southeastern, Southern, South Western Railway (including the Island Line) and Thameslink.

Train operators warned that on strike days it is likely that little or no services will run across large areas of the network operated by the affected train companies.

Services are also likely to be disrupted and start later on the day immediately following a full strike day.

On days where an overtime ban is in place, the timetable for some train companies may be revised in advance or services subject to short-notice delay or cancellation on the day.

Passengers are warned to expect significant disruption and advised to plan ahead and check before they travel.

A law is now in place aimed at ensuring a minimum level of service during rail strikes but none of the operators involved in the Aslef dispute have applied to use it.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the union had called for talks after announcing renewed mandates for industrial action, highlighting that train drivers have not had an increase in salary since 2019.

He said: “Our members voted overwhelmingly – yet again – for strike action. Those votes show a clear rejection by train drivers of the ridiculous offer put to us in April last year by the Rail Delivery Group which knew that offer would be rejected because a land grab for all the terms and conditions we have negotiated over the years would never be accepted by our members.

“Since then train drivers have voted, time and again, to take action in pursuit of a pay rise. That’s why Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, is being disingenuous when he says that offer should have been put to members.

“Drivers wouldn’t vote for industrial action, again and again and again, if they thought that was a good offer. That offer was dead in the water in April last year – and Mr Harper knows that.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper
Transport Secretary Mark Harper (PA)

“We asked Mr Harper, or his deputy, the rail minister Huw Merriman, to come and meet us. We asked the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the train operators (TOCs) to come and talk to us.

“We haven’t heard from Mr Harper, Mr Merriman, the RDG, or the TOCs since those new mandates were announced weeks ago. In fact, Mr Harper hasn’t deigned to talk to us since December 2022; Mr Merriman hasn’t talked to us since January 2023; and the RDG has not seen fit to join us in the room since April last year.

“We have given the Government every opportunity to come to the table but it is now clear they do not want to resolve this dispute. They are happy for it go on and on.

“We are not going to give up. Many members have now not had a single penny increase in pay for half a decade, during which time inflation has soared and, with it, the cost of living.”

A spokesperson for the RDG said: “We are sorry that this round of strikes called by the Aslef leadership risk disrupting journeys.

“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running and we will work with our industry partners to keep as many trains running as possible, unfortunately there will be reduced services between Thursday April 4 to Tuesday April 9. Our advice is to check before you travel and follow the latest travel information.

“Minimum Service Level legislation is one of many useful tools for managing strike disruption, but it is not a silver bullet.

“Operators’ guiding principle is always to make sure they can offer the best, most reliable services possible for their passengers on and around industrial action days, and to do that they need to make careful assessments of their own particular operational circumstances before deciding the best way forward.”

Kathryn O’Brien, customer experience & transformation director at TransPennine Express, said: “Unfortunately, strike action will once again cause disruption to our services, as well as those across the country.

“Sadly, we won’t be able to run any trains at all on Saturday April 6, and some services will be affected this week by further industrial action.”

Aslef has held 14 one-day strikes during the 20-month dispute. The first ballot went out in June 2022 and members first went on strike on Saturday July 30 2022.

Aslef members on London Underground are also striking on Monday April 8 and Saturday May 4 in a separate dispute over terms and conditions.

The strikes will cause severe disruption across the Tube network and some lines will have little or no service.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Aslef is the only rail union continuing to strike, targeting passengers and preventing their own members from voting on the pay offer that remains on the table.

“Having resolved disputes with all other rail unions, the Transport Secretary and rail minister have ensured that a pay offer is on the table – taking train drivers’ average salaries from £60,000 up to £65,000.”