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May rail strikes: How is the latest train drivers’ walk-out affecting passengers?

Simon Calder’s Travel

National rail strikes by train drivers have entered a third summer with a series of “rolling” walk-outs, one region at a time, during May.

Members of the Aslef union aim to halt thousands of trains on 7, 8 and 9 May 2024 – with commuters who normally go to the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday among the targets.

The aim is to disrupt services on the 14 rail firms in England that are controlled by the UK government and represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). Rolling strikes cause maximum disruption for minimum loss of pay.

Closing time: GWR poster at Bath station announcing the previous round of stoppages (Simon Calder)

In addition, six days of overtime bans are causing further cancellations from 6 to 11 May.

The previous national industrial action by train drivers, comprising an overtime ban and rolling regional walk-outs, hit passengers in April.

Industrial action by Aslef train drivers in their dispute over pay and working arrangements began in July 2022. The union is demanding a no-strings pay award, but rail firms – directed by ministers – say any increase is contingent on radical reforms to working practices in order to reduce public subsidies.

During the dispute, hundreds of millions of journeys have been cancelled. Billions of pounds have been lost to the UK economy – particularly to hospitality businesses.

Taxpayers are pumping cash into an increasingly decrepit and unreliable railway to the tune of £90 per second on top of the normal subsidy. Over the course of a year, that amounts to £2.8bn in addtional public cash.

The quarrel has become increasingly bitter, with no sign of any progress towards a settlement. Negotiations were last held on 26 April 2023.

Caught in the middle of a seemingly intractable dispute: the passenger.In a snap social media poll for The Independent that garnered 2,142 responses, one in three rail travellers say they will permanently travel less after the industrial action finally ends.

For passengers, these are the key questions and answers.

Which rail firms are involved?

Aslef is in dispute with the 14 train operating companies (TOCs) that are contracted by the UK government to provide rail services. They are:

Intercity operators:


East Midlands Railway

Great Western Railway (GWR)

TransPennine Express

Southeast England commuter operators:


Greater Anglia

GTR (Gatwick Express,…

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