Forty-eight hours of rail chaos is imminent. Travelers trying to get to the Eurovision Song Contest this Saturday and next month’s FA Cup Final by train could find their trains canceled due to a series of strikes.
As the next national rail strike begins, the dispute between railway unions, train operators and ministers seems deeper than ever.
In June 2022, the first national rail strikes since the 1980s began across Britain in a tangle of disputes over wages, job security and work arrangements that have caused problems for tens of millions of train passengers. The stops were called frequently, causing major disruption and making advance travel planning difficult.
Across England – and on some lines in Scotland and Wales – tens of thousands of trains will be canceled over the next 23 days.
Passengers head to the final stages of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool this weekend, while in the later stages sports fans will have a hard time reaching the FA Cup Final and Epsom Derby.
The strikes look set to continue through the summer of 2023. While the government and rail unions hurl insults at each other, commuters are facing months of unrest.
These are the key questions and answers about disputes.
Who is standing out?
All the railway workers who are taking industrial action over the next few weeks are members of the main unions: Aslef, which represents train drivers, and the larger RMT, which represents other workers. .
Both unions are involved in a protracted and acrimonious dispute with all the major ship operators in the UK, who are contracted with the Department for Transport (DfT).
In terms of absolute passenger numbers, London commuter routes are the most important. These include the Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink, Greater Anglia and Southeast.
Five intercity operators – Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, LNER and TransPennine Express – also participate. (Regardless of the strikes, TransPennine Express will go into public ownership on May 28 after repeated large-scale cancellations.)
Three operators focused on the Midlands and the north of England are embroiled in the dispute: Chiltern Railways, Northern Trains and West Midlands Trains.
When do they stand out?
Aslef members will be out on Friday May 12, Wednesday May 31 and Saturday June 3. To cause further disruption, Aslef has also banned “non-contractual overtime” on Saturday May 13, Monday 15 through Saturday 20 May and on Thursday 1 June. .
RMT has called for a strike by working members at 14 train operators on Saturday, May 13.
As of June 2022, RMT had previously held a 24-day outage, of which Aslef had stopped work 8 times before.
Steve Montgomery, president of the Rail Delivery Group – which represents train operators – said: “While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, it’s unfortunate. , network-wide trains will be cut from Friday May 12 to Saturday June 3.”
Will I be able to travel by rail this weekend?
It depends on the journey you want to take and the date you want to do it. Aslef’s industrial action tends to cause more disruption than RMT’s, now that Network Rail employees are no longer involved.
Normally, train operators cancel all or most trains on strike days in Aslef, although LNER could aim to run up to 40% of regular services on the East Coast mainline, focusing centered on the London King’s Cross-York-Newcastle-Edinburgh axis.
RMT’s action on May 13 is likely to be more complicated: most train operators will typically run a reduced service from around 7am to 6pm.
Visitors trying to get to the Eurovision Song Contest will find that Avanti West Coast, Northern and TransPennine Express run absolutely no trains to and from Liverpool on 12 May. Their entire operations have been canceled due to the drivers’ strike, although Merseyrail will introduce additional services on its small and closed network.
On all strike days, passengers can expect a normal service on Transport for Wales and ScotRail, as well as Caledonian Sleeper, Grand Central, Heathrow Express, Hull Trains, London Overground, Lumo and Merseyrail.
What about later strikes?
Currently only Aslef called to walk after this weekend.
June 3 coincides with the FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Manchester City, which will be held at Wembley in northwest London. Normally, tens of thousands of fans would travel by rail to the match. Drivers’ disqualification on June 3 will also affect riders attending the Epsom Derby.
What do unions say?
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said independence: “These are government-led strikes, government-led strikes, government-organized strikes.
“The proposal – just 4% – is clearly not designed to be accepted as inflation is still at 10% and our members at these companies have not had a gain in four years.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “During this dispute – which has been going on for more than a year – the government has tied the hands of the rail companies and prevented them from coming up with a fair deal.
“We are going on strike so that employers and the government see that the great anger of railway workers is very real and that they need to recognize that fact, face reality and come up with solutions. improved output.”
What do train companies say?
Steve Montgomery of RMT said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect the daily commute of passengers but also those traveling from outside Liverpool. and London to watch Eurovision and the FA Cup final, much to the chagrin and disappointment of those who had planned to attend.
“It will also add to the burden on our residents, who have lost thousands of pounds at a time of financial stress.
“We understand the impact these strikes have had on individuals as well as businesses, and we can only apologize for this unnecessary and damaging disruption.”
What is the government’s position?
The ministers rejected Aslef’s views and said the train drivers were doing a great job. A DfT spokesperson said: “In terms of wages, the national median salary for train drivers has increased by 39 per cent since 2011, compared with the national average of 23 per cent.
“The very fair pay offer will see their already above-average wages rise from £60,055 to £65,000 by the end of the year.”
Speaking to the RMT union, transport secretary Mark Harper said: “I am disappointed by RMT’s decision to continue industrial action. The training companies made a fair and reasonable salary offer that RMT executives refused to consult with their members, even though members working for Network Rail did. voted overwhelmingly to accept it earlier this year.
“Rail Delivery Group’s ultimate and best offering ensures employees a fair and equitable pay raise, and introduces the reforms needed to address the long-term challenges facing the industry.”
What happens next?
Neither side seems willing to back down.
All parties will be watching closely to see how effective the weekend walk will be. The government and train operators are pinning their hopes on eroding support for union members’ strikes.
If more than half of the scheduled trains can run, ministers will conclude that support for the strikes is eroding. But rail unions believe that support for the strikes remains strong, and ministers will eventually give in and agree to an unconditional pay rise.
Both unions said they were willing to resume industrial activity through the summer and into the winter; in a vote of RMT members, 91 percent of those who voted to continue on strike duty.
RMT leader Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers’ overwhelming anger is very real and they need to recognize that fact, face reality and make suggestions for improvement.”
When I asked Mick Whelan of Aslef if the train strikes could last all summer, he said: “I believe so.”