Travel News

Sunday train cancellation chaos awaits hundreds of thousands of passengers

Simon Calder’s Travel

For hundreds of thousands of rail passengers, Sunday will prove chaotic. There are no actual rail strikes: it’s a one-day pause in the current round of walkouts by train drivers. Yet their overtime ban continues, and as a result, thousands of trains will be cancelled.

Large swathes of the nation will be without trains, with West Midlands Railway, London Northwestern Railway and Chiltern Railways cancelling all their services.

In addition, key intercity links including London to Bristol, Cardiff and Cambridge will be closed to passengers and many other lines will be affected.

Here we take a look at the key questions and answers ahead of the day of travel chaos:

Remind me about the industrial action on the railways?

Many rail passengers may feel the strikes have been going on forever. In fact, the first national rail walkouts since the 1980s began in the summer of 2022.

The larger rail union, the RMT, has ended its campaign of strikes for now. But Aslef, the smaller yet more powerful train drivers’ union, is as far from an agreement as ever with the 14 English rail firms whose operations are controlled by the government.

Since the dispute began, Aslef has called regular strikes and bans on rest-day working. Train drivers are currently in the middle of a nine-day spell of industrial action, comprising an overtime ban and “rolling” regional strikes.

On Saturday, it hit passengers on the West Coast main line and East Midlands network. Tomorrow it’s the turn of West of England and CrossCountry routes.

What’s different this time?

It’s only the second time in 19 months of strikes and overtime bans by train drivers that Aslef has included Sunday in a prohibition on rest-day working. On other days of the week, overtime bans cause cancellations because many rail firms don’t have enough train drivers to cover their schedules without bringing in staff on overtime.

Aslef says no train operator “employs enough drivers to provide the service they promise passengers and businesses they will deliver without asking drivers to work their days off”.

The effect of an overtime ban on Sunday services will be dramatic. While staff on most forms of public transport, such as buses and planes, can be required to work on any day of the week, Sunday is a day of rest for many rail staff. Train drivers whose contracts don’t have Sunday in the working…

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