April rail strikes: When is the drivers’ walk-out and how will it impact passengers?

Train strikes

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The train drivers' national rail strikes have been going on for 22 months now. The strikes are planned in a way where they will occur one region at a time, through a process called "rolling" walk-outs. These strikes are planned to take place in early April.

The Aslef union members have strategized to stop a vast number of trains on the dates 5th, 6th and 8th April. This plan is designed to create chaos in the services of 14 railway companies in England, which are managed by the UK government and are part of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). By conducting a series of rolling strikes, the situation can create massive disruptions with the least impact on pay.

Furthermore, the implementation of a five-day restriction on overtime will lead to more cancelled events.

Aslef's general secretary, Mick Whelan, was present during a strike in the past as a representative for train drivers.

The recent strike by train operators across the country included a refusal to work overtime and localized walk-offs that occurred for a total of nine days spanning from January 29th to February 6th.

In July 2022, Aslef started a strike over payment and work agreements. They want a pay raise without conditions, but railway companies - under the guidance of officials - argue that any salary increase depends on implementing significant changes in work practices to minimize public financial aid.

Throughout the disagreement, a great number of trips have been annulled, amounting to a considerable loss of billions of pounds for the UK economy. This is especially devastating for enterprises within the hospitality industry. Besides, taxpayers are currently injecting a considerable amount of funds into a deteriorating and unreliable railway system by providing a subsidy of £90 every second, over and above the usual amount.

The disagreement has grown more intense, and there is no indication of any headway being made towards a resolution.

Beside the most recent protests conducted by railway laborers, individuals who travel through the city will experience a blow as Aslef teamsters, who operate the trains for London Underground, plan to conduct strikes for two days.

The upcoming industrial action has a goal of causing extreme disruption to the capital on Monday, April 8th. This will be accomplished by cancelling the majority of Tube and commuter train services.

Stuck in the middle of a seemingly never-ending argument is the passenger. An instant survey conducted on social media for The Independent reached 2,142 replies, and it was discovered that one out of three passengers stated they would decrease the amount they travel permanently once the strike ultimately finishes.

Here are the primary inquiries and responses.

What Are The Rail Companies Involved?

Aslef is currently in a disagreement with 14 train operators who were hired by the UK government to offer rail services.

has announced that it is reducing its timetable due to the latest lockdown restrictions. The company will continue to operate services for essential travel and commuting but is reducing some of its routes to reflect the lower demand for passenger travel at this time. GWR customers are advised to check their journey before setting out as there may be changes to their service. The company has implemented safety measures including enhanced cleaning and social distancing to keep passengers safe during their journeys. The reduction in GWR's timetable is in response to the UK government's lockdown measures aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus. GWR is committed to supporting these measures and helping to keep its customers and staff safe during this challenging time. In summary, GWR is decreasing the number of trains it operates in response to the lockdown, but will still run services for essential travel and commuting. Passengers should check their journeys beforehand, and GWR have safety measures in place to protect passengers and staff. The decision to decrease the timetable is to support the UK government's efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Commuter Operators In SE England:

To breathe new life into the blog section, let's discuss the train network known as GTR. This acronym stands for four train companies: Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink. Together, they provide a comprehensive train service to commuters and travellers alike, covering many destinations across the UK. With GTR's extensive network, you can easily navigate the country, whether you're commuting to work or heading out on a sightseeing trip. So, if you're looking for a reliable and efficient way to travel, consider using GTR's services!

South Western Railway (which also includes the Island Line situated on the Isle of Wight)

Regional Focus: Midlands And North

is proud to be serving communities in the West Midlands and beyond. The transportation company, which includes London Northwestern Railway, is pleased to provide access to a wide range of destinations for both local and long-distance travel. With a focus on customer service and convenience, West Midlands Railway strives to deliver a reliable and efficient service that meets the needs of all passengers. Whether you're commuting to work, visiting family and friends, or exploring new places, West Midlands Railway is committed to making your journey an enjoyable and stress-free experience. So why not book your next trip with West Midlands Railway and discover all that this vibrant region has to offer?

Train Drivers' Strike: When To Expect It?

Members of the Aslef union who operate as drivers have announced their plans to proceed with a strike. This strike will follow a certain sequence:

Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway, and CrossCountry plan to create the highest possible disturbance on vital intercity routes and Midlands' local transit services.

The strike is aimed at impacting railway passengers in the northern and western parts of England. The affected train companies include Chiltern, GWR, LNER, Northern, and TransPennine Trains. Along with the rail service users, football fans will also be affected by this strike as they will not be able to attend games scheduled for the day. In the Premier League, supporters of the Newcastle team planning to travel to London to watch the Fulham match will be impacted by this strike.

The strike led by Aslef members will have a significant impact on London's transportation network. C2C, Greater Anglia, Great Northern, Thameslink, Southeastern, Southern, Gatwick Express, and South Western Railway services will all be affected. As a result, most Tube services in London will be brought to a standstill.

What Impact Will Each Operator Face?

During the strikes, there will be no services for the Night Riviera sleeper train and the Gatwick Express.

These service patterns are most likely for other operators.

On the day in question, Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway, and CrossCountry have decided to cancel all of their train services.

The operator of the main West Coast line has stated that the services by Avanti West Coast will also face disruptions on the days that are before and after the planned strike.

Chiltern Railways is advising individuals considering transferring to its London-Birmingham route to do so only for necessary travels, as there is a strike action taking place on other operators.

All of the services provided by Chiltern, Northern and TransPennine Trains have been called off.

LNER is planning to operate limited train services on key routes between approximately 7am and 7pm. The primary route between Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, and London will have a minimum of one train per hour, along with a few extra trains on the southern section of the network.

GWR won't have any trains that operate over long distances, but they intend to establish connections between Reading, Oxford, and Basingstoke. Furthermore, they plan to initiate a route between Bristol and Cardiff, together with some branch routes within Devon and Cornwall.

CrossCountry has not engaged in strike action but cautions that their services are predicted to be exceedingly congested. Therefore, they advise individuals who intend to travel to assess whether it is vital before proceeding.

Even though there are no planned strikes, scheduled engineering projects by Network Rail will cause a lot of inconvenience for passengers who intend to travel on Sunday.

According to Avanti West Coast, certain areas such as Penrith, Carlisle, Lockerbie, Motherwell, Glasgow Central, Haymarket, and Edinburgh will not have any train services available. Additionally, only a few trains will be available for Lancaster and Oxenholme. All other trains will only run from Preston.

Buses will replace trains operated by Northern on the route between Halifax and Huddersfield.

The railway service called CrossCountry that runs between Derby and Burton-on-Trent will be out of service for the entire weekend. Instead, buses will be provided as an alternative to the train travel and the trains will be taking different routes than usual.

The train operator known as Greater Anglia is set to provide transportation services to and from several locations including London Liverpool Street to destinations such as Stansted airport, Southend, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich.

Southern plans to provide a transportation service between London Victoria and Gatwick airport.

A shuttle service is being offered by Thameslink that will operate between London St Pancras and Luton, serving both the town and airport stations.

Great Northern is launching a shuttle service that will connect London King’s Cross with Cambridge.

The South Western Railway is scheduled to operate between London Waterloo, Woking, and Guildford, with the possibility of offering additional services in the suburbs.

Southeastern is recommending passengers to avoid traveling, although they will still operate trains between London St Pancras and Ashford via the high-speed route, Charing Cross and Orpington, as well as London Bridge and Dartford.

All the services provided by C2C have been called off.

"Overtime Ban: Any Updates?"

From Thursday 4th to Saturday 6th April, and from Monday 8th to Tuesday 9th April, the members have decided that they will not be working during their designated rest days. Rail firms typically rely on drivers working overtime, which means that numerous trains - the figure could possibly be in the thousands - will not be running.

Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Railway have already confirmed that they will run a limited schedule on all the strike-free days.

The overtime ban enforced by GWR could lead to changes and cancellations, particularly during weekends and late-night hours.

Which Rail Companies Are Excluded?

A few train operators that use public funding will function as usual, namely ScotRail, Transport for Wales, Transport for London (which also includes the Elizabeth line), and Merseyrail.

The train companies that offer "open-access" services on the East Coast main line, namely Grand Central, Hull Trains, and Lumo, will not be affected by the industrial action. However, their services are expected to be very busy due to the strike, as they will have to pick up the slack of other train companies that are experiencing disruptions, such as LNER, TransPennine Express, CrossCountry, and Northern.

Bigger Picture: Dispute Consequences?

The individuals operating trains are insisting on an increase in salary that takes into account the significant inflation rates experienced since their last compensation increase; Aslef has indicated that certain members have gone without a pay increase for a period of five years.

The government claims that a small rise in salary can only be granted if there are significant alterations made to the current work agreements, which have been in place for a long time with the goal of slashing expenses. This is also necessary to cut down on the massive financial support provided by taxpayers to the railway.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the way people travel has been altered. The amount of money earned from selling tickets is now approximately 20% less than it was before Covid-19. The increase in salary for train drivers will ultimately be funded by taxpayers, therefore both the Treasury and the Department for Transport must approve any agreement made.

Government officials feel that the terms and conditions of train operators are contributing to the issue. In order to reduce expenses, train drivers need to agree to modifications in their work routines, such as incorporating Sunday into their work week.

The Rail Delivery Group granted a wage hike of 4% plus 4% spread out over two years starting from 2022 to 2023 – but it comes with several modifications to the terms and conditions that impact many aspects such as driver education, working on Sundays, health benefits, and advanced technology. The announcement was made on 27 April 2023.

The union has expressed their strong disapproval towards this situation. The train drivers are willing to discuss modifications, but only if they are presented with a reasonable and unconditional increment in their current salary.

They are confident that they will receive the funds necessary to fulfill their demands because this has been the case in the past. ASLEF has a history of negotiating changes in working conditions in exchange for a small increase in wages, and they have no plans to alter that approach.

At the moment, there is still a lack of trust among travelers due to ongoing corrosion. Rail passengers are not able to schedule their journeys ahead of time for more than two weeks. This is due to the union's minimum requirement for notification of industrial action.

Union's Stance On Current Issues?

Mick Whelan, the Aslef general secretary, stated that their members have voted in favor of going on a strike with an overwhelming majority. This decision reflects that train drivers have once again disregarded the unreasonable proposal made to them by the Rail Delivery Group in April of last year. This proposal was destined to fail as it attempted to acquire all the benefits and conditions that they have carefully negotiated and agreed upon over the years, which was an unrealistic expectation that their members would never accept.

Train drivers have continuously voted to take action for a pay increase. This makes the transport secretary, Mark Harper's statement insincere when he claims the offer should have been presented to the members. The drivers would not repeatedly engage in industrial action if they believed the offer was satisfactory. The proposal was rejected last year in April, and Mr Harper is fully aware of this fact.

We invited Mr. Harper or his deputy, Huw Merriman, the rail minister, to have a conversation with us. We also extended the invitation to the RDG and TOCs. Our suggestion was to sit together and work out a compromise. We understand that you don't want to see any further disruptions in the rail network, and neither do we. However, we were left with no other alternative by the TOCs and the Tories.

We've offered the government countless chances to have a discussion but they've made it evident that they lack the willingness to end this disagreement. It appears that they are satisfied with the ongoing circumstance. Nevertheless, we won't surrender to their inaction.

For the past five years, several members have not received any salary increment at all.

Employers And Government Views?

At the beginning of this year, Huw Merriman, who is responsible for the railway, spoke to The Independent and said: "We think that Aslef has been offered a fair and reasonable proposition. If they propose it to their members, it could be accepted. On average, these train drivers receive a salary of £60,000 for working 35 hours in four days. The new pay deal would increase their salary to £65,000."

A representative for Rail Delivery Group, who speaks on behalf of the train companies, stated that nobody benefits when strikes affect people's daily lives and their ability to earn a living. They vowed to do everything they can to reduce any inconvenience to passengers.

The issue needs to be resolved, but the leaders of Aslef must acknowledge that taxpayers who are under financial pressure are still providing an additional £54 million weekly to maintain services post-Covid.

We are still trying to come to a resolution with the leaders of Aslef and are willing to have discussions in order to resolve this conflict.

Labour Party's Stance?

Louise Haigh, who holds the position of shadow transport secretary for the Labour party, expressed her amazement that the transport secretary has not had any discussions with unions to attempt to rectify the situation since the end of December of the year before last. This lack of action is seen as a serious neglect of responsibility.

Labour has a unique stance in comparison to the Conservative party and is willing to collaborate with everyone involved in order to come to an agreement that benefits both commuters and employees. By adopting this logical strategy, it is possible that the ongoing railway strikes may have been avoided.

What's The Price Of All The Disruption?

The rail sector faced a significant financial loss of approximately £775m due to industrial action that took place between June 2022 and mid-January 2024, as stated by the RDG. This amount does not account for losses incurred from the latest strikes and overtime bans which likely add up to around £100m.

UKHospitality has made an assessment and determined that the revenue lost by establishments serving food, drinks and accommodation is nearly worth £5 billion. Kate Nicholls, who happens to be the top executive of the group, has specified that continuous strikes impact businesses to a great extent leading to hindrances in employees reaching their workplaces, in turn shaking up the confidence of people in the railway sector.

Moreover, there is an undetermined decrease in income due to travelers who have changed their way of living or switched to other modes of transportation. There are also companies that have halted their trips and are relying on virtual meetings instead, and individuals who are reducing their travel plans due to the uncertainty of the situation.

What's The New Law On Minimum Service Levels?

Recently, the government has passed a law that gives the transport secretary the power to set specific minimum service levels (MSLs) on days when there are strikes. These minimum levels must be at least 40% of the regular service. The goal of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 is to guarantee that critical services will remain accessible to the public even during a strike.

Train companies aren't trying to enforce the latest law on the train drivers' union. Earlier this year, LNER considered doing it and began having discussions with the union. Aslef reacted quickly, focalizing a different five-day strike particularly on LNER. Thereafter, the train company clarified that they would not compel their drivers to work, which made Aslef cancel the strike.

The Transport Select Committee has cautioned that the legislation could have unforeseen impacts. The leader of the Conservative party, Iain Stewart, expressed concerns that the introduction of MSLs may exacerbate problems between employers and employees, potentially leading to lower standards of service.

The regulations that dictate the least amount of service required do not cover union restrictions on working on days off that are not included in the employment contract. Therefore, it would not be advantageous to enforce this law during a ban on working overtime.

Tube Dispute: What's The Issue?

London Underground train operators who belong to Aslef union will go on strike on Monday 8 April and Saturday 4 May, causing the majority of the Tube system to come to a halt.

According to Finn Brennan, who works as Aslef's full-time organiser for the Tube, the employer is responsible for attempting to enforce modifications to the working setup. Finn accused them of desiring for drivers to work additional hours, spend more time in the cab (up to 25% more), and do away with all present working contracts, all in the guise of "flexibility and efficiency."

A representative from Transport for London stated that they have been engaged in ongoing conversations with their union partners regarding ways to modernize procedures and processes within the London Underground system. The goal is to enhance the experience for both employees and passengers.

We are not intending to enforce these modifications, and we assure you that no one will be unemployed due to these alterations. We have also discussed these changes with our unions to confirm that our unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety of the Tube network will not be jeopardized by any modifications made.

We plead with Aslef to keep conversing with us so that we can prevent inconvenience for the people of London.

What Else Is Planned For The Strike?

Train workers who belong to the primary railway labor organization, the RMT, that are employed by CrossCountry will go on strike on the 13th of April due to a disagreement regarding acknowledgement.

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