The first national rail strikes since the 1980s began in June 2022. The RMT and Aslef trades unions are involved in parallel disputes with the leading English train operators over pay, jobs and working conditions. The government – which contracts the rail firms to run trains – will sign off the final settlement. But the unions and management appear as far apart as ever.
Both unions are demanding no-strings increases that take into account the high level of inflation. They say they are prepared to discuss reforms, but these must be negotiated separately. They will expect any changes to be accompanied by commensurate pay boosts.
Train operators and ministers insist modernisation is essential following the collapse of rail revenue. Much of the “bedrock” of season ticket sales has vanished since the Covid pandemic. The only way to award even a modest increase, the employers maintain, is to fund it out of efficiency savings.
The RMT has so far staged walk-outs on 33 days in the current wave of national strikes, with Aslef stopping work on 11 previous occasions.
Caught in the middle: the long-suffering passenger. For 14 months, national rail strikes and other forms of industrial action have scuppered the travel plans of tens of millions of train passengers. Stoppages have been called frequently, causing massive disruption and making advance travel planning difficult.
The biggest rail union, the RMT, has called walk-outs in late August and early September, while Aslef, representing train drivers, has a combination strike and overtime ban.
These are the key questions and answers.
Who is taking industrial action, and when?
The biggest rail union, the RMT, says 20,000 RMT members across 14 train operators are walking out on the two key Saturdays at the end of the summer holidays:
The train drivers’ union, Aslef, will stage a one-day strike on Friday 1 September and mount an overtime ban the following day.
Why have these dates been chosen?
As with any industrial action, strikers seek to cause as much disruption as they can. With rail commuting sharply down since the Covid pandemic, leisure passengers now comprise the main target.
The first RMT strike, on Saturday 26 August, is designed to wreck the travel plans of millions of passengers, particularly families returning from holidays. In addition it will hit music fans attending festivals in…