As the first strikes by train drivers in 2024 take effect, airline passengers are facing widespread problems getting to and from airports by rail.
The long and bitter dispute between the train drivers’ union, Aslef, and 14 train operators in England is into its third calendar year. With no settlement in sight to the long and bitter row over pay and working arrangements, Aslef are stopping work region-by-region over the course of a week between Tuesday 30 January and Monday 5 February.
The effect is exacerbated by a nine-day ban on overtime running from 29 January to 6 February.
The UK’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, will remain accessible at all times on the Heathrow Express, the Elizabeth Line and the Tube. But other major airports will be badly affected – with most trains cancelled on strike days. The overtime ban will also cause some cancellations until Tuesday 6 February.
Passengers using London Gatwick will be significantly affected on the first day of strikes, Tuesday 30 January, when no Gatwick Express nor Thameslink trains will run. But passengers between London and Gatwick will be able to travel on a Southern shuttle service, nonstop between Victoria and the airport. The GWR link from Gatwick to Redhill, Guildford and Reading will run normally on 30 January but not on 5 February.
London Stansted will have an hourly skeleton service to and from the capital on Friday 2 February, with “service alterations” on all the other days of the overtime ban. The link to Norwich will be axed on 2 February, but CrossCountry trains to Cambridge (and on to Birmingham) will still run. On 5 February, though, no CrossCountry trains will run to Stansted airport or anywhere else.
Luton airport will remain accessible by rail, at least from London, on all days: on the Thameslink strike day, 30 January, Thameslink will have a reduced service from London St Pancras to Luton Airport Parkway. In addition, the East Midlands Railway link will be running. On 3 February, when no East Midlands Railway services are likely to run, Thameslink will be connecting Luton airport with London, Bedford and Brighton.
Southend airport: hourly trains on Friday 2 February with restricted hours.
Southampton airport will not be served by South Western Railway on Tuesday 30 January nor by CrossCountry on Monday 5 February.
Manchester airport will have a drastically…