Warning of more nationwide travel disruption as train drivers to stage 24-hour strike

Rail passengers have been warned of more nationwide travel disruption next weekend as train drivers at nine firms strike over pay offers failing to match the soaring cost of living.

The train drivers’ union Aslef announced last week that its members had voted overwhelmingly to take a second round of industrial action next Saturday, and emphasised that strikes were “always the last resort”.

The walk out will coincide with a busy weekend of football, industry leaders warned, with Premier League games in Manchester, London, Birmingham and Brighton likely to be affected.

The strikes will affect Arriva Rail London, Avanti West Coast, Crosscountry, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Timetables will be published on Tuesday, but passengers are being advised to follow the latest travel advice, check before they set off, and allow extra time for their journey.

Other companies not involved in the strike will be running trains, but these are expected to be busy, and passengers are advised to start their journeys later the following day where possible.

Passengers with advance, off-peak or anytime tickets affected by the strike can use their ticket either on the day before the date on the ticket, or up to and including 16 August, or can change their tickets to travel on an alternate date, or get a refund if their train is cancelled or rescheduled.

The union’s general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We don’t want to inconvenience passengers – our friends and families use public transport, too – and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike, but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the Tory government.”

But Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group – which represents rail operating firms – urged the union to call off the strike action and said he is “ready and willing to talk to the leadership of Aslef today, tomorrow or indeed any time next week”.

“We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has, for the second time in as many weeks, decided to impose yet more uncertainty for passengers and businesses by disrupting passengers’ weekend plans,” Mr Montgomery said.

Urging passengers to plan ahead and check the latest travel advice, he added: “Like any service or business, things do not just stand still and we must move with the times. We want to give our people a pay rise as we know everyone is feeling the pinch due to the cost-of-living rises.

“We have to find the money somewhere as we cannot continue to ask taxpayers or passengers for more, so we must modernise and adapt to changes in passenger behaviour.

“By making these necessary reforms, such as ending the reliance on volunteer working at weekend, we improve punctuality, have more resilient Sunday services, and use those savings to give our people a pay rise, which has always been what we want to do.

“Further strikes will see our people out of pocket and mean less money to fund a pay rise, so we urge the Aslef leadership to come and talk to us so we can reach a deal that is fair to staff and taxpayers, and which secures a bright, long-term future for our railway.”

In addition to the industrial action next weekend, further strikes by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and Unite have been announced for 18 and 20 August over the ongoing dispute over pay, job security and condition.

Announcing those strikes, Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA said the warnings of a “summer of discontent” across the country’s rail network were “an ever-closer reality”.

He had urged Grant Shapps to “either personally come to the table or empower train operators to reach a deal” – a move the transport secretary has ruled out.

A separate RMT walkout on London Underground will also take place on 19 August.

Additional reporting by PA

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