Railway to be crippled for a week in January as union stages fresh strike

Train drivers are to stage a fresh strike in the first week of January, threatening an entire week of rail chaos as Britons return to work after the festive break.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef at 15 train companies will walk out on Thursday 5 January.

It comes on top of existing strikes by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 14 train operators on 3 and 4 January and 6 and 7 January, meaning services are set to be crippled for a week.

The companies affected by the Aslef strike are Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, London North Eastern Railway, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway (depot drivers only), SWR Island Line, TransPennine Express, and West Midlands Trains.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We don’t want to go on strike but the companies have pushed us into this place.

“They have not offered our members at these companies a penny, and these are people who have not had an increase since April 2019.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Further strikes will disrupt the New Year travel plans of millions, taking even more money out of the pockets of railway staff.

“No one wants to see this strike go ahead, and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this damaging disruption.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said Aslef’s strike was “incredibly disappointing for businesses, commuters and families who have been impacted by this damaging dispute for far too long”.

Meanwhile, this week’s postal strike by Royal Mail workers will go ahead after their union said the company had turned down an offer of negotiations to resolve a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said its members will walk out on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 December.

“An offer extended to the company to suspend the strikes and establish a period of calm from now until 16 January 2023, as well as the union and the company both signing a joint statement incorporating Royal Mail’s latest promise of no compulsory redundancies, was rejected almost immediately,” said the union.

The strikes will be the 17th and 18th days of action in the increasingly bitter dispute.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “For Royal Mail Group to reject our offer just hours after receiving it demonstrates that they were never serious about saving Christmas for customers and businesses.

“When a company openly boasts of having built a £1.7bn fund to crush its own workers rather than use that money to settle the dispute and restore the service, then you know dark forces are clearly at work.

“Their sole intention is to destroy the jobs of postal workers and remove their union from the workplace.

“Our members will not stand for this, and further action will take place in 2023.”

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Our priority is to deliver for our customers, and this has never been more important as we approach Christmas.”

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