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February rail strikes: Here’s everything you need to know

Train drivers have announced strikes  ARE OFF
Train drivers have announced strikes ARE OFF

This ongoing train strike story will be updated throughout the week.

Brits are facing a second week of disruption as train drivers from the Aslef union continue ongoing walk-outs in a dispute over pay.

Aslef launched a ban on overtime work and strikes on separate days between Monday, January 29 and Tuesday, February 6, affecting 17 train companies.

There will be no services at all on some days, while others will see trains start later and finish much earlier than usual, typically running between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Planned strikes at LNER this week have been called off after the operator agreed not to put minimum service levels in place during the primary set of walk-outs.

However, the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) have announced fresh strikes on the London Overground, hitting commuters in the latter part of February and early March.

It comes despite the RMT, which represents signalling staff, reaching a breakthrough agreement with the government late last year. The deal averted disruption from Christmas, until spring.

Tube strikes were also averted at the eleventh hour in early January after London Mayor Sadiq Khan drummed up £33m in funding for the RMT.

The dates:

Monday, January 29: Overtime ban.

Tuesday, January 30: Full strike action on Southeastern, Southern, Gatwick Express, South Western Railway, Great Northern and Thameslink.

Wednesday, January 31: Full strike action on TransPennine Express and Northern.

Thursday, February 1: Overtime ban.

Friday, February 2: Full strike action on C2C, Greater Anglia and LNER.

Saturday, February 3: Full strike action on Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains and East Midlands Railway.

Sunday, February 4: Overtime ban.

Monday, February 5: Strikes at Great Western, CrossCountry and Chiltern.

Tuesday, February: 6 Overtime ban.

Monday, February 19: Strikes on the London Overground.

Tuesday, February 20: Strikes on the London Overground.

Monday, March 4: Strikes on the London Overground.

Tuesday, March 5: Strikes on the London Overground.

Monday, February 5 to Friday, February 9: LNER strikes are all cancelled.

Customers are being advised to check their last train the evening before strikes and the first train the day after strikes.

There are special timetables in place for many lines, which can be viewed on the National Rail or relevant train company’s websites.

Advance, anytime, or off-peak ticket holders from January 30 to February 5 can use tickets until February 7 if they were bought before the strikes were announced on January 16.

Refunds or changes are available for advance ticket holders and season ticket holders can claim full compensation for strike dates.

Background:

Industrial action by both Aslef and the RMT union has been disrupted since May 2022, as high inflation stokes issues with workers’ pay packets and Britain’s railways continue to endure a chequered post-Covid recovery.

Taxpayers have already been propping up the network with an extra £54m each week since the pandemic and the sector’s revenues are still down around 22 per cent on 2019.

In April 2023, Aslef rejected an offer of a four per cent pay rise over the next two years in exchange for guarantees it would accept changes to driver training practices and negotiate changes in working schedules at individual operators.

The RMT rejected a below-inflation pay offer from Arriva Rail London (ARL), which has the contract for the London Overground.

The standard salary for rail workers was £45,919 in 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). For train and tram drivers, the median pay is just under £59,000.

The drivers union has outright refused to put the latest offer from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and Department for Transport (DfT) to their members. It would have seen driver salaries increase from £60,000 to £65,000 for a four-day working week.

Talks stalled throughout 2022 as the government and Aslef consistently accused the other party of failing to show up at the negotiating table.

Rail unions are also furious at new legislation which enforces trade union workers to apply a minimum level of service in key sectors during strikes.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary, said: “We have given the government every opportunity to come to the table but it is now a year since we had any contact from the Department for Transport. It’s clear they do not want to resolve this dispute.

“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. We didn’t ask for an increase during the pandemic, when we worked through lockdown, as key workers, risking our lives, to move goods around the country and enable NHS and other workers to get to work.”

On the London Overground strike, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “London Overground workers do an important job delivering services for TfL and supporting passengers on journeys throughout London.

“Our members are furious that they have been given a below-inflation pay offer and want to see an improvement that represents the value they bring to the company.

“If this dispute cannot be resolved then RMT is more than prepared for a sustained period of industrial action to get London Overground workers the pay rise they deserve.”

A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group said: “There are no winners from these strikes that will unfortunately cause disruption for our customers. We believe rail can have a bright future, but right now taxpayers are contributing an extra £54m a week to keep services running post covid.

“ASLEF’s leadership need to recognise the financial challenge facing rail. Drivers have been made an offer which would take base salaries to nearly £65,000 for a four-day week before overtime – that is well above the national average and significantly more than many of our customers who have no option to work from home are paid. Instead of staging more damaging industrial action, we call on the ASLEF leadership to work with us to resolve this dispute and deliver a fair deal which both rewards our people and makes the changes needed to make services more reliable.

“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately, there will be reduced services between Monday, January 29 to Tuesday, February 6, so our advice is to check before you travel and follow the latest travel information.”

The impact

Strikes have a devastating impact on both the rail sector and the economy. Since the dispute began in May 2022, estimates have placed the total cost to the rail industry at £500m.

Analysis by the trade body Hospitality UK shows the cumulative impact of industrial action on pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars has reached around £4bn.