Are there train strikes today?
National rail strikes are entering their ninth month since the unions began industrial action in June 2022 in a tangle of disputes over pay, job security and working arrangements.
Since then, stoppages causing massive disruption for passengers have been called frequently.
Train drivers belonging to Aslef and the RMT unions will strike on Wednesday 1 and Friday 3 February, causing cancellations from Tuesday 31 January to Saturday 4 February.
These are the key questions and answers.
Who is walking out and why?
Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef (together with a few drivers who along to the RMT union) are involved in a long and bitter dispute with 15 train operators, who in turn are dependent on ministers to approve any settlement.
The latest strike is in protest at an offer of 4 per cent for each of 2022 and 2023, subject to a range of modernisation proposals.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, says: “Not only is the offer a real-terms pay cut, with inflation running north of 10 per cent, but it came with so many conditions attached that it was clearly unacceptable.
“They want to rip up our terms and conditions in return for a real-terms pay cut.
“The proposal is not and could not ever be acceptable.”
The Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, says: “The rail industry is working hard to keep as many trains running despite the union leaders’ decision to reject an offer which would give their members an 8 per cent pay rise over two years, taking average salaries for train drivers up from nearly £60,000 a year to almost £65,000 a year.”
Which trains are cancelled altogether?
Many train operators have said they will cancel all trains on Wednesday and Friday. They include several key intercity operators:
- Avanti West Coast
- East Midlands Railway
- TransPennine Express
In addition the main London commuter operator, GTR, will cancel all services on its four brands: Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink.
Other affected operators are:
- Chiltern Railways
- Heathrow Express
- Island Line (Isle of Wight)
- London Northwestern Railway
- West Midlands Railway
Which train operators will run normally?
ScotRail and Transport for Wales are unaffected as they are not in dispute – though routes that are duplicated by English train operators (LNER, Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, TransPennine Express, GWR) are likely to be more crowded than usual.
South Western Railway, which runs from Britain’s busiest station, London Waterloo to southwest London, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Devon, will be unaffected; Aslef drivers working at depots are walking out, but the train firm says it has contingency plans in operation.
“Open access” operators on the East Coast main line – Grand Central, Hull Trains and Lumo – will be running, but will be very busy.
The Caledonian Sleeper linking London with Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William should run normally.
Which rail firms are hit by the strikes but running some trains?
Hourly trains on the key lines to and from London Liverpool Street.
The Stansted Express will run from around 5am to midnight.
Other lines will run from around 8am to 7pm:
- Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester
- Southend Victoria
Hourly services on the key London Paddington-Reading-Swindon-Bath-Bristol Temple Meads line, with onward connections to Cardiff via Newport
Three branches from Reading:
And these branch lines:
- Exeter St Davids-Exmouth
- Exeter St Davids-Paignton
- Penzance-St Ives
Regular trains on the key lines from London King’s Cross to Yorkshire, northeast England and Edinburgh during the day and into mid-evening.
From Edinburgh, LNER trains will run south via Newcastle and York to London at 8.31am, 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4.30pm.
More frequent trains will run from York, Leeds and Doncaster to London.
What about airport links?
Heathrow will be connected to central London and much of the rest of the capital on the Piccadilly Line of the Tube, as well as the Elizabeth Line. The Heathrow Express will not run.
As mentioned, the Stansted Express is running hourly from early to late.
Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham and Manchester airports will not have any train connections on strike days.
Will other days be affected?
Yes. Some cancellations will begin on Tuesday evening, 31 January, with early and late services affected on Thursday 2 February and disruption continuing to the morning of Saturday 4 February.
GWR’s Night Riviera sleeper between London and Penzance will not run from Tuesday to Saturday inclusive.
How long will these strikes continue?
Aslef vs the train operators (actually directed by the government) is only one of three series of nationwide industrial action. There are also disputes between the RMT vs the train operators and vs Network Rail are also continuing. But it appears that the RMT disputes may soon end with staff reluctantly accepting the offers from train firms and Network Rail.
Were it to happen, the industry would be stabilised. But train drivers appear a long way from an agreement. With salaries higher than other rail workers, they may feel more prepared to accept the financial losses of prolonged strikes in pursuit of their pay claim.