Rail passengers have been hit by a new wave of 48-hour strikes in the run-up to Christmas.
In early November, the leaders of the railway unions seemed willing to reach an agreement. They called a strike planned for the first week of the month and announced “intensive talks” to break the deadlock in a labor dispute that has desperately prevented overdue reforms of Britain’s railways.
It had been hoped that crucial changes in working methods could be agreed through negotiation. Changes that would save money and allow the wider rail industry to balance the books in the post-Covid world.
But on Tuesday, hopes of a ceasefire were dashed.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union (RMT) said its 40,000 members will walk out for eight days – the largest strikes to date in the dispute – putting the rail network through the better part of a week before Christmas and another week into winter will be paralyzed. New Year.
Taking into account the planned work between Christmas and New Year, some lines will be largely out of service for the better part of a month from mid-December.
On what dates are the train strikes?
- Saturday 26 – 11 November train operators hit by trade union strike Aslef
- Tuesday December 13
- Wednesday December 14
- Friday December 16
- Saturday December 17
- Tuesday January 3
- Wednesday January 4
- Friday, January 6
- Saturday January 7
Only one in five trains are expected to run on strike days.
On the days following a strike – the so-called “shoulder days” – the timetable will be about 60 percent of normal.
There is also a new work ban for overtime and rest days. The railways generally assume that staff are overworked and work on rest days. A union ban on this could wreak further havoc. Train bosses assess the impact and adjust the timetable accordingly.
Which train operators are concerned?
Almost every train line will be affected in some way.
The strikes are by RMT members at Network Rail and at 14 train operators.
The action against the operators has been overshadowed by the strikes at Network Rail – and signalmen in particular.
Network Rail has reserves of trained signalmen, but only enough to operate at 20 per cent of normal capacity.
Aslef strike, November 26
This is train operator specific. The affected lines are:
- Avanti west coast
- Chiltern Railways
- Cross Country
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- Great Anglia
- London North Eastern Railway
- London above ground
- Northern trains
- Transpennin Express
- West Midlands trains
Can I get a refund if my train is cancelled?
Passengers with tickets can use their ticket the day before the date on the ticket or until Tuesday 29 November.
Passengers with a subscription that is monthly or longer or who have an activated travel day on a flexible subscription who choose not to travel on 26 Nov can claim compensation for these days through the delay refund scheme. If you need to travel on November 26 and already have a ticket, please contact the train company.
For the RMT strikes, railway chiefs are assessing what the policy will be and will make an announcement afterwards. It is thought that the policy will be similar to that of this Saturday for the union action in Aslef.
Why are the RMT and Aslef workers on strike?
Both unions are demanding wage increases for their members who are facing rising inflation.
For Aslef, this is the main point of contention. It is thought that train operators may not have to offer double-digit pay raises to strike a deal with the train drivers’ union.
For RMT, the situation is more opaque. Network Rail has offered an 8% increase over two years. Train operators have not yet got around to discussing wage increases. First, they want to agree on major reforms of working practices.
Changes in what have been labeled “archaic” working practices are the most contentious issue in the dispute.
Travel habits have changed after the pandemic. Fewer and fewer people commute to work every day. More people travel by valley train, after the morning rush hour or at the weekend. Demand for business travel is stubbornly much lower than it was before Covid hit.
This means that Network Rail and the train operators, whose costs are ultimately borne by the taxpayer, will have to make cuts to balance the books. Part of this can be achieved through staff reduction. But much of it has to do with changing working methods, many of which are a legacy of British Rail and public ownership.
Bosses what to do to introduce more technology, make teams work more efficiently and end sections of track that operate in their own silos.
Trade unions fear that this will mean job cuts – and consequently their power will be weakened.