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Rail walkout is ‘a political strike driven by the government,’ claims train driver union boss

On the first day of the latest round of national rail strikes, the train drivers’ leader has accused the government of forcing workers to walk out after deciding “train drivers aren’t worth a pay rise”.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the Aslef union, was speaking at the picket line at London Euston station on the first day of the latest round of national rail strikes.

Train drivers who belong to Aslef and work for 15 train operators are walking out in pursuit of a pay claim.

Mr Whelan told The Independent: “The reality that this is a political strike driven by the government.

“The government decided the train drivers aren’t worth a pay rise.”

The employers, represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and mandated by ministers, have offered 4 per cent pay rises for each of 2022 and 2023, subject to reform of working practices.

A spokesperson for the RDG said: “Having made an initial offer which would have taken average driver salaries from £60,000 to nearly £65,000, we had hoped the Aslef leadership would engage constructively to move talks forward, rather than staging more unnecessary strikes.

“We can only apologise for the disruption.”

But Mr Whelan said: “We find ourselves in a worse position than we were six months ago. We had that rather bogus offer leaked to the press that we hadn’t seen, we hadn’t negotiated.

“They would like us to rip up every agreement we’ve ever had in the last 140 years.

“We want a resolution. My people don’t want to be out in the cold. They don’t want to be losing money. But they do feel that after four years they’ve got a right to a pay rise.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government has played its part and facilitated conversations.

“We urge Aslef to play their part, call off strikes and consider this fair and reasonable offer to members, which would see train drivers receive a pay rise in line with the private sector without fuelling inflation, so we can bring this dispute to an end.”

Mr Whelan declined to predict when the dispute might be over. He said: “We’ll go back to the talks next week and we’ll see where we go.”

At London Euston, the hub for the West Coast main line, no intercity trains on Avanti to and from Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow are running.

Commuter services on London Northwestern have also come to a halt.

London Underground and Overground services are running.