Train drivers are set to stage another strike at the start of the new year and five days of travel chaos looms as people return to work after the holiday.
Members of drivers’ union Aslef from 15 rail companies will pull out on Thursday January 5 after voting overwhelmingly for more industrial action in the long-running wage dispute.
Meanwhile, Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) workers at Network Rail and 14 train operators plan to go on strike on January 3, 4, 6 and 7, meaning services will be shut down for a week.
The companies affected by the Aslef strike are Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, London North Eastern Railway, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway (depot drivers only), SWR Island Line, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains.
Aslef members will picket January 5, with members from 15 companies walking out. Pictured are railway workers on the picket line at Grand Central Station in Birmingham November 28
Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “We don’t want to go on strike but the companies have pushed us into this place.
“They haven’t offered a dime to our members at these companies and these are people who haven’t had a raise since April 2019.
“That means they expect the drivers of these companies to take a real pay cut with inflation above 14 percent and work just as hard for significantly less.
“The rail companies say their hands are tied by the government, while the government, which doesn’t employ us, says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.
“We’re always happy to negotiate – we never refuse to sit down and talk – but these companies haven’t offered us anything and that’s unacceptable.”
Due to strikes by the militant RMT trade union, train services are stopped at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
In some parts of the country, rail bosses are therefore advising families to leave the day before if they want to guarantee they see loved ones this Christmas.
The last train from Edinburgh to London departs at 8am, while the last train in the opposite direction departs at 11am.
Freezing weather combined with the recent winter rail strikes have already hit retailers, with footfall on the high streets falling 10.2 per cent in a week.
Rail unions have already wreaked havoc on commuters for months, with strikes affecting services throughout the year. Pictured: the RMT pickets in Reading on December 17th
Train strikes are now scheduled for January 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, bringing a new wave of misery for commuters across the UK
Aslef had to re-elect members at the last strike in January because the law states that a mandate is only valid for six months, and said its members voted overwhelmingly to go on strike again.
Mr Whelan added: “The determination of our members is rock solid. 93 percent “yes” votes – up from a very high figure last time – with an average turnout of 85 percent shows that our members are in it for the long haul. It shows how angry and determined we are.
“We now have a new industrial action mandate for the next six months. The way to stop this is for the companies to make a serious and sensible offer and for the government not to back down.
“We don’t want to cause any inconvenience to passengers. Our friends and families use the train too, and we believe in investing in the train for the future of our country – and the riders don’t want to lose a day’s wages.
“So strikes are always the last resort, but the intransigent stance of the railway companies while the government acts maliciously in the shadows has compelled us to act.
“Because those drivers, who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods across the country during the pandemic, haven’t had a pay raise in almost four years.
“With inflation at 14 percent, companies and the government are saying they want us to take a real pay cut.
“Companies need to come to the table with an appropriate proposition to help our members, their drivers, buy this year what they were able to buy last year.
“It’s the way to prevent another strike and all the disruption it causes. The ball is now firmly in the hands of the railway companies and we call on the government to support and not hinder the negotiation process.’
A spokesman for Rail Delivery Group added: “Further strikes – on top of those already announced by the RMT – will disrupt the New Year’s travel plans of millions and deprive rail workers of even more money.
“Industrial action has already cost the industry millions in lost revenue and further strikes threaten the long-term viability of the industry.
“Nobody wants this strike to continue and we can only apologize to the passengers and the many businesses that will be impacted by this damaging disruption.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with NATO troops at the Tapa military base in Estonia
Aslef workers will go on strike on January 5, bringing five days of New Year’s travel chaos to the railways. Pictured are Aslef members in London on November 28th
“We want to work with Aslef to end this dispute, which is damaging to passengers, the industry and its members.”
News of the strikes comes hours after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned striking workers that he would stand his ground against their “unreasonable” wage demands for months if necessary.
In an interview with the Mail, the prime minister flatly dismissed reports that he was preparing to be relegated in a showdown with union leaders.
He said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the industrial action, which threatens to shut down essential services, “particularly at Christmas, especially when it affects people’s health”.
And Mr Sunak warned the striking paramedics not to heed their threat to refuse assistance to those in need during Wednesday’s move, including the elderly who suffer a fall.
Mr Sunak called on unions to stop the strikes, adding: “I urge unions to consider the impact of these strikes on people’s lives and health and to consider whether this is really appropriate.”
Britons have been warned to prepare for one of the worst Christmas outings ever as strikes coincide with the festive rush to cause travel chaos.
The AA is forecasting widespread disruption on the roads, with 20 million car journeys taking place in the run-up to Christmas Day amid strikes on the railroads.
On Monday, National Rail boss Andrew Haines criticized the RMT union for causing “unnecessary suffering” to travelers and urged the union to agree to a settlement.
Meanwhile, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have agreed to limit ticket sales for UK-bound flights to Heathrow Airport due to strikes by Border Force agents.
“Chaotic” scenes have already been reported at Britain’s largest airport, with some passengers complaining about having to wait two hours for their luggage to be collected this morning.
The AA forecasts widespread disruption on the roads, with 20 million car journeys taking place in the run-up to Christmas Day. Pictured: The M25 at Dartford, Kent
Around five million British holidaymakers are expected to travel abroad over Christmas and the New Year. Pictured: Manchester Airport this morning
On Monday evening, passengers flying BA from the US faced delays of hours due to technical problems.
“Our flights departing from the United States tonight are currently delayed due to a technical issue with our third-party flight scheduling provider, which we are urgently investigating,” the airline said in a statement.
A spokesman for the airline said the issue did not affect flights already departed and was not a safety concern.