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Train strikes 2023: Everything you need to know about September and October rail industrial action

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The train drivers’ union, Aslef, has announced the next round of industrial action in its long and bitter dispute with 14 English train operators over pay, jobs and working conditions. Drivers will walk out on Saturday 30 September and Wednesday 4 October, triggering the cancellation of thousands of trains on each day and wrecking millions of planned journeys.

In addition the union has announced an overtime ban on Friday 29 September and from Monday 2 to Friday 6 October – disrupting rail travel for over a week. The strikes are timed to hit the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, which begins on Sunday 1 October – the day after the first walk-out – and ends on Wednesday 4 October, the day of the second stoppage.

Announcing the strike, Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “While we regret having to take this action – we don’t want to lose a day’s pay, or disrupt passengers as they try to travel by train – the government, and the employers have forced us into this position.

“Our members have not, now, had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – and that’s not right when prices have soared in that time. Train drivers, perfectly reasonably, want to be able to buy now what they could buy four years ago.”

Caught in the middle of the dispute, the long-suffering passenger. This Q&A aims to explain what lies behind the conflict and the likely impact of the forthcoming strikes.

When did the industrial action start?

The first national rail strikes since the 1980s began in June 2022. The unions involved are Aslef and the RMT, the largest rail union. They are involved in parallel disputes with the 14 leading English train operators, which run the main intercity and commuter services.

Transport for Wales and ScotRail are unaffected.

For 15 months, national rail strikes and other forms of industrial action have scuppered the travel plans of millions of train passengers. Stoppages have been called frequently, causing massive disruption and making advance travel planning difficult.

The RMT has so far staged walk-outs on 33 days in the current wave of national strikes, with Aslef stopping work on 13 previous occasions.

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.

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