The most protracted and disruptive national rail strikes since 1989 begin on Tuesday 13 December. They involve walk-outs on a total of 12 days, stretching into the New Year, by the RMT union as well as some industrial action by the TSSA and Unite unions.
The strikes that will disrupt passenger trains the most involve a series of four 48-hour stoppages:
- 13-14 December
- 16-17 December
- 3-4 January
- 6-7 January
Some trains will be affected on the evening before strikes, and many will be disrupted on the days after strikes.
The RMT leadership has also imposed an overtime ban across 14 train operators from 18 December until 2 January, which will disrupt travel during the festive period.
In addition, RMT members working for Network Rail will walk out for 60 hours from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on 27 December, but they are aimed at scuppering engineering projects scheduled for Christmas Day and Boxing Day rather than passenger trains.
What’s the national advice?
Passengers are being warned by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators, “to plan journeys in advance and only travel by train if absolutely necessary due to 48 hour strikes on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December”.
In many parts of Great Britain there will be no trains at all. Around 20 per cent of normal services will operate.
What’s your advice?
So long as you plan carefully, there is no reason to avoid the trains on strike days – thousands of them will be running.
Rail firms have now published their schedules for the initial bout of disruption. But the RDG warns: “Passengers who must travel should expect disruption, plan ahead and check when their last train will depart.”
Ten notable cities are off limits to rail passengers during the rail strikes:
But many more are accessible. These are the key services on the main train operators that will run on strike days, going clockwise from Kent around Great Britain. Assume that trains will run only 7.30am-6.30pm unless otherwise stated and check before travelling.
Some routes will operate to/from London between 7am and 6pm: the High Speed 1 line from London to Ashford and suburban trains to Dartford (via both Bexleyheath and Sidcup) and Sevenoaks.
Trains every half-hour from both London Victoria and London Bridge to Brighton via Gatwick Airport, with a shuttle running between Brighton and Hove.
Some south London suburban trains will run.
South Western Railway
Four trains per hour from London Waterloo to Windsor, Woking and Basingstoke, with two trains each hour continuing to Winchester and Southampton (via the airport).
Great Western Railway
GWR is planning its busiest-ever strike timetable, with hourly trains to and from London Paddington on its key lines to Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads with some Bristol trains extended to Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth.
Oxford will also be served from Paddington.
The Cardiff-Westbury line (via Bristol and Bath) will see trains, as will Slough-Windsor, Maidenhead-Marlow, Twyford-Henley and Reading-Basingstoke.
The Night Riviera sleeper service will not run on any strike night, nor the intervening days between 48-hour walk-outs.
Transport for Wales
The national operator says: “Transport for Wales is not involved in the industrial action. However, the industrial action resulting from the dispute between the unions and Network Rail means we’ll be unable to operate rail services on Network Rail infrastructure.”
The only services will connect Cardiff with the Valleys – Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney – and a shuttle to Newport and back.
From the hub at Birmingham New Street there will be one train an hour on most of the key routes: Bournemouth via Reading and Southampton; Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh (though the service is sparse and finishing earlier, the further north you go; Leicester; and Manchester via Wolverhampton and Stafford.
In the southern part there will be hourly trains linking London Marylebone with Oxford Parkway, Banbury and Aylesbury (via both High Wycombe and Amersham).
Avanti West Coast
“We plan to run one train per hour from Euston to each of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Preston, with a limited service onwards to Glasgow,” says the op.
“North Wales, Shrewsbury, Blackpool and Edinburgh have no Avanti West Coast services, and trains will not be calling at Stockport, Macclesfield, Stoke-on-Trent or Runcorn, so these stations will be closed.”
First trains will run from around 8am or 9am, and last trains will depart London Euston for Glasgow Central at 1.30pm, for Manchester at 3.40pm, for Liverpool at 3.56pm and for Birmingham at 4.23pm.
West Midlands Railway/London Northwestern Railway
This combined train operator will be running its busiest-ever strike timetable, with trains linking Birmingham New Street with Lichfield Trent Valley, Redditch, Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Northampton and London Euston (the latter more cheaply than Avanti West Coast).
East Midlands Railway
Hourly links from both Sheffield and Nottingham to London St Pancras, giving a twice-hourly service from Leicester.
Trains will also run hourly between Corby and London St Pancras, Derby and Matlock, Derby and Nottingham, Sheffield and Nottingham and Leicester and Nottingham.
Trains every half-hour from London St Pancras to Bedford via Luton airport, with additional stopping services from the capital to Luton.
London North Eastern Railway/Lumo/Grand Central/Hull Trains
LNER, the flagship operator on the East Coast main line, is running a very busy timetable on its core route between London King’s Cross, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh – with seven departures between the English and Scottish capitals between around 7.30am and 12.30pm. Additional trains will serve intermediate stations to York.
Seven LNER trains each way will connect London King’s Cross with Leeds.
Lumo, which competes between London and Edinburgh, will run two trains during each strike day.
Grand Central, another “open-access” operator, has yet to set out its strike timetable.
Hull Trains, which normally links the Humberside city with London via Doncaster and Grantham, will run only London-Doncaster. It says: “We are providing buses for Hull and Brough passengers and taxis for Howden and Selby passengers to connect onto Hull Trains rail services starting in Doncaster.”
The national operator will be running a strike timetable right through the week, with a very limited service based around and between Edinburgh and Glasgow (which are connected by two fast trains an hour via Falkirk High). Other stations on the network: Helensburgh, Hamilton, Larkhall, Lanark, Shotts, Cowdenbeath, North Berwick, Tweedbank, Larbert, Milngavie and Springburn. Mostly they will be served by two trains an hour.
These northern England train operators, which have overlapping networks, are combined here.
Northern will run from Leeds to Bradford, York, Ilkley, Sheffield and Skipton, and from Liverpool via Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport
TransPennine Express will have a service on three lines on 13 and 14 January: Sheffield-Cleethorpes, Manchester Piccadilly-Huddersfield-Leeds-York and Preston-Manchester Airport. But on 16 and 17 December, the train company will only be running a service on one route between Huddersfield and York.
Two trains an hour between London King’s Cross and both Peterborough and Cambridge, with different stopping patterns.
Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester will have hourly fast trains to and from London Liverpool Street, plus additional stopping services between Colchester and London Liverpool Street.
The London-Southend Victoria line gets two trains an hour.
Cambridge gets an hourly service, while Stansted Airport will have two trains an hour – but with first departures after 7.30am and last departures before 6pm.
London Underground/Elizabeth line
The London Underground will be unaffected except on the southwestern extremes of the District Line (Turnham Green to Richmond and Parson’s Green to Wimbledon), which will see reduced hours.
The Tube is the best way to access Heathrow Airport.
The Elizabeth line will operate in three sections between around 7.30am and 6.30pm between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 4 (via Terminal 2/3).
The Paddington-Abbey Wood link will run largely as normal.