Members of the Aslef union are launching a week of walkouts in a long-running dispute over pay. Services had already been affected by a nine-day halt on overtime, which started on Monday (29 January).
Today sees drivers working on Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Thameslink and South Western Railway services strikes. The strike forced many people to drive to work, which led to huge traffic jams on roads, including the M25.
This will be followed by followed by walkouts at Northern Trains and TPE on Wednesday, at LNER, Greater Anglia and C2C on Friday, at West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway on Saturday 3 February and at Great Western, CrossCountry and Chiltern on Monday 5 February.
South Western Railway urged passengers to only travel if “absolutely necessary” on Tuesday, warning that a significantly reduced service will operate on a limited number of lines.
A statement said: “Large parts of our network will be closed and trains will only run between 0700 and 1900. There will be no services outside of these times.”
Similar disruption will face all of the operators involved in the dispute. Where services do run, they are likely to start later and finish earlier than usual, and picket lines are likely to be mounted outside stations.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said some members have not had a pay rise for five years – and ministers have refused to engage with the union for a year. He has accused the government of “giving up” trying to resolve the row.
Last week, Mr Whelen told The Independent: “It’s going to get messier. It’s going to get worse.”
The strikes were expected to be the first test of the minimum service levels legislation, aimed at ensuring train operators could run 40 per cent of services.
But none of the train companies are using the new law, which the government is also planning to extend to other sectors.
Labour has said it will repeal the law if it wins the next general election.
Downing Street expressed disappointment at rail operators who are not using the minimum service levels legislation.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Daily Mail: “They’re available for train operators to use…