Rail services around Britain will be severely disrupted on Saturday by the most widespread strike by train drivers since the privatization of rail in 1996.
Members of the Aslef union will halt work for 24 hours at seven train operators, shutting down parts of the network and leaving only a few trains running on some other lines.
The conductors’ strike comes three days after a nationwide strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union (RMT), including Network Rail flagmen and crew on board 14 train operators, closed most services.
The strike coincides with the first weekend of the Commonwealth Games and the opening day of the new English football league season.
West Midlands Trains, which serves sports venues around Birmingham, the host city of the Games, will have no service this Saturday due to the strike. However, the strike was called off at Chiltern Railways, which runs services between London and Birmingham, after Aslef agreed to reinitiate a strike vote by its members rather than risk an injunction if they object.
No trains will run on the South East or most of London Overground. Only a few trains will run on Great Western, with no Heathrow Express or GWR service west of Bristol to Wales. LNER trains will be significantly reduced, particularly via Leeds, and will not run north of Edinburgh. Only a few Greater Anglia services and one Hull Trains service in each direction will operate on Saturday.
Some disruption is expected to persist into the morning of Sunday July 31, due to work schedules and the ripple effects of the disruptions.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which speaks on behalf of train operators, said the strike would disrupt the plans of millions of passengers, especially those hoping to attend sporting events. He urged passengers to plan ahead and check the latest travel advice.
RDG 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 saw an RMT strike.
“Like any service or business, we need to move with the times and cannot continue to ask taxpayers or passengers for more money when we should instead be responding to the huge changes in travel behavior post Covid.”
The RDG said passengers could use any ticket in advance on Friday or until Tuesday, or change their tickets or request a refund.
Montgomery urged Aslef to resume talks. However, Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan replied: “We are happy to talk – but the rail operators say there is nothing to talk about, they have no offer to make.”
Aslef, like sister unions the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), says the government has prevented the industry from offering a pay rise close to inflation, although ministers say this is in the hands of employers.
The union has agreed in principle to a 6.6% raise at Transport for Wales, although that awaits ratification by members, after an 8.2% deal with Eurostar and a 5.1% increase at ScotRail.
Whelan said strikes were ‘always the last resort’ but the union had been ‘forced into this position by the companies, who say they were pushed into it by the Conservative government’.
It said many of its members had not received a pay rise since 2019, taking a pay cut in real terms.
The unions’ analysis was backed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who said the responsibility for the strikes lay with the government, which was “interfering with the rail companies who want to make a deal”.
Khan said: “The only way to resolve these disputes is if [the transport secretary] Grant Shapps and the government stop pulling strings and allow the railroads to talk to unions.
A new strike by Aslef drivers is scheduled for August 13, while the RMT and TSSA will go into action on August 18 and 20.