Summer getaways and weekend plans could be badly disrupted today in a fresh round of rail strikes – with an ‘orange traffic warning’ also in effect on the roads.
The Aslef union said train drivers from seven rail companies were staging a 24-hour strike over a pay dispute, and millions of passengers are feared to be disrupted.
Elsewhere, the AA is warning motorists that there could be severe congestion on major roads between 11am and 3pm today – the south of England set to be particularly vulnerable.
A number of factors are to blame, including the railway strikes, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the start of the Football League season in England.
Drivers are being told to prepare for stop-start traffic as the weekend begins, and AA road policy officer Jack Cousens said the congestion will be a frustration for many.
He added: “As well as taking food and water, a form of entertainment for young passengers might just hold back a sigh and mumbles of ‘I’m bored!’ ” for a certain time.”
Roads to the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone were unaffected by traffic yesterday, but the National Motorways say this weekend “is likely to be extremely busy”.
The UK and France now have plans in place to avoid border chaos and “maximize passenger flows”, and weekly meetings will aim to avoid further disruption on both sides of the Channel.
Some 140,000 passengers are expected to pass through the Port of Dover between Thursday and Sunday this week, along with 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles.
“More uncertainty and disruption”
The Rail Delivery Group has accused the Aslef union of timing its industrial action with major sporting events.
Today’s strike involves Arriva Rail London, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
Rail Delivery Group Chairman Steve Montgomery said: “We are truly disappointed that Aslef management has decided to impose even more uncertainty and disruption on passengers and businesses in a week that has already seen an RMT strike.”
Passengers on the affected routes are urged to plan ahead and check before traveling – and if the trains are cancelled, travelers can change their ticket, get a refund or use their ticket until Tuesday.
More strikes are scheduled for next month amid deadlock over wages, jobs and conditions – Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan insisting industrial action is “always the last resort”.
He added: “We don’t want to disturb passengers, our friends and families also use public transport, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike – but we have been forced into this position by the companies, who say they were pushed into this by the Conservative government.”
Mr Whelan claimed that many members of Aslef had not had a pay rise for three years – and with inflation “standing north of 10%”, these drivers saw their wages drop in terms real.
“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you don’t get worse for three years in a row,” he said. “Especially as the rail companies are doing very well, thank you, outside of British railways, with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders and big salaries for managers, and the train drivers don’t want working longer for less.”