Train drivers set to walkout on Friday as doctors declare unprecedented new strike

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the drivers’ union Aslef (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Wire)

Train services will be crippled on Friday because of another strike by drivers - while junior doctors and consultants have also announced fresh walkouts.

The train timetable will be severely affected by the Aslef strike, with some areas having no trains all day as the long running dispute over pay and conditions continues.

Negotiations remain deadlocked with no talks planned and no sign of a breakthrough, and with commuters and holidaymakers facing finding alternative transport. The Gatwick express is among the key services hit.

Members of the drivers union Aslef will also ban overtime on Saturday, coinciding with a strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union in its dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Both unions blame the Government for blocking any chance of a deal by refusing to allow train operators to make an offer they can recommend to their members. Ministers deny they are intervening in the dispute.

Aslef said Friday’s strike will force companies to cancel services across the country and the ban on overtime will “seriously disrupt” the network as the union maintains that none of the train companies employ enough drivers to provide a proper service without drivers working on their days off.

The 16 companies affected include: Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; c2c; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Greater Anglia; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; Great Western Railway; Island Line; LNER; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “We don’t want to take this action but the train companies, and the Government which stands behind them, have forced us into this place because they refuse to sit down and talk to us and have not made a fair and sensible pay offer to train drivers who have not had one for four years – since 2019 – while prices have soared in that time by more than 12%.

“The Government appears happy to let passengers – and businesses – suffer in the mistaken belief that they can bully us into submission. They don’t care about passengers – or Britain’s railway – but they will not break us.

“Train drivers at these companies have not had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – while inflation has rocketed. We haven’t heard a word from the employers – we haven’t had a meeting, a phone call, a text message, or an email – since Wednesday April 26, and we haven’t had any contact with the Government since Friday January 6.

“This shows how the contempt in which the companies, and the Government, hold passengers and staff and public transport in Britain.

“They are happy to let this drift on and on, but we are determined to get a fair pay rise for men and women who haven’t had one for four years while inflation has reached double figures. Our members, perfectly reasonably, want to be able to buy now what they could buy back in 2019.”

Meanwhile junior doctors and consultants will hold a joint strike for the first time in the history of the health service in what has been described as a “serious escalation” in their row with the Government over pay.

The co-ordinated industrial action is set to take place in September and October, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced on Thursday evening.

Consultants had already announced plans to walk out for 48 hours from September 19, and will be joined by their junior colleagues on September 20.

Junior doctors will then continue their strike on September 21 and 22.

Both consultants and junior doctors will then strike together on October 2, 3 and 4.

Junior doctor committee co-chairmen Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Today, junior doctors across England are sending a single message, loud and clear to the Government: we are not going anywhere.

“We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the Prime Minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members. Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead.

“Rishi Sunak now has nowhere to hide. There can be no more delaying, no more wasting time with impositions of pay deals, no more declarations that strikes must end before even stepping in the room with us.”

In response to the strike announcement Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said there will be “no more negotiations on pay”.

Mr Barclay described the union’s latest announcement as “extremely disappointing” adding: “I know it will weigh heavily on the minds of their NHS colleagues and patients – both of whom are shouldering the brunt of the BMA’s relentless and now co-ordinated strike action.