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January and February rail strikes: Nationwide prepare disruption on its approach as Aslef plan weeks of walk-outs

Nationwide rail strikes have entered their third yr, with a collection of “rolling” walk-outs deliberate to disrupt the journeys of thousands and thousands of passengers throughout England in late January and early February.

Train drivers belonging to Aslef will cease work region-by-region over the course of per week between Tuesday 30 January and Monday 5 February. Thousands of trains are prone to be cancelled on every day.

The impact shall be exacerbated by a nine-day ban on additional time working from 29 January to six February.

The strikes are designed to trigger most disruption over an prolonged spell, however with prepare drivers every dropping solely someday’s pay. It mirrors the rolling industrial action at the start of December 2023. The schedule is:

  • Monday 29 January: additional time ban begins.
  • Tuesday 30 January: strikes on South Western Railway, Southeastern, Southern, Gatwick Express, Great Northern and Thameslink.
  • Wednesday 31 January: strikes on Northern and TransPennine Express.
  • Thursday 1 February: no strike however additional time ban continues.
  • Friday 2 February: strikes on Greater Anglia, C2C and LNER.
  • Saturday 3 February: strikes on West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway.
  • Sunday 4 February: no strike however additional time ban continues.
  • Monday 5 February: strikes on Great Western, CrossCountry and Chiltern.
  • Tuesday 6 February: no strike however additional time ban continues for a remaining day.

In phrases of sheer variety of passengers hit, Monday 29 January would be the most disruptive. It is aimed toward commuters in southeast England, nearly all of whom use the affected prepare operators.

Intercity travellers shall be worst affected on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 February, when the principle operators on the East Coast and West Coast primary traces, in addition to the Midland mainline, shall be hit.

Sunday 4 February can be prone to be severely disrupted due to the ban on rest-day working.

Aslef says no prepare operator “employs enough drivers to provide the service they promise passengers and businesses they will deliver without asking drivers to work their days off”.

ScotRail, Transport for Wales, Transport for London (together with the Elizabeth Line), Merseyrail and “open-access” operators similar to Grand Central, Hull Trains and Lumo will not be concerned.

The results could also be decreased if the transport secretary, Mark Harper, makes use of new laws to impose “minimum service levels” (MSLs).

The Department for Transport (DfT) says: “The minimum service level is to provide the train operation services necessary to operate the equivalent of 40 per cent of the timetabled services during the strike period.”

But the Transport Select Committee has warned of attainable dangers.

The Conservative chair of the committee, Iain Stewart, stated final month: “The government has signalled its intention to implement MSLs as soon as possible.

“There is a risk of MSLs worsening worker-employer relations and that, as a result, MSLs could end up making services less reliable.”

The prepare drivers’ union has been in dispute with 14 prepare operators, together with all of the main commuter and intercity corporations, because the summer time of 2022.

Aslef is demanding a no-strings pay enhance adopted by negotiations at an area degree to modernise working practices – which is able to come at an extra worth to the employers.

The prepare operators, who’re represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), say even a modest pay enhance is contingent on far-reaching reforms.

Any deal shall be signed off by the DfT. Taxpayers will foot the invoice. Ticket income is about one-fifth down on pre-Covid ranges. The public subsidy to maintain the railway working is at the moment £16,300 per minute – £4,000 greater than earlier than the pandemic.

The union says it has had no talks with Mark Harper, the transport secretary, since 2022; with Huw Merriman, the rail minister, since January 2023; and with the employers since April 2023.

Aslef’s basic secretary, Mick Whelan, stated: “We have given the government every opportunity to come to the table but it has now been a year since we had any contact from the Department for Transport. It’s clear they do not want to resolve this dispute.

“Many of our members have now not had a single penny increase to their pay in half a decade, during which inflation soared and with it the cost of living.

“Train drivers didn’t even ask for an increase during the Covid-19 pandemic when they worked throughout as key workers, risking their lives to allow NHS and other workers to travel.

“The government has now tried their old trick of changing the rules when they can’t win and brought in minimum service levels legislation. But this new law, as we told officials during the consultation period, won’t ease industrial strife. It will likely just make it worse.

“There’s no excuse. The government and train operating companies must come to the table with a realistic offer so we can end this dispute and work together to ensure the future of our railways.”

The Independent has requested the RDG and the DfT for responses. After the most recent emphatic votes by Aslef members for additional industrial motion, a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group stated: “Strikes called by the Aslef leadership continue to result in huge disruption for our customers, staff and the hospitality industry.

“Our priority is finding a fair and affordable way through this dispute, so we can end the disruption to our passengers, give our people a pay rise and return the industry to a sustainable footing at a time when taxpayers are contributing an extra £54m a week to keep services running post-Covid.

“We have always been clear that we remain open to constructive dialogue with Aslef to find a resolution, and that is still the case.”

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