'Tragic Thursday' dawns with just two in 10 trains running

‘Tragic Thursday’ dawns with just two in 10 trains running: Aslef staff at 15 rail firms begin mass-walkout today – after 48-hour strike by RMT workers who will launch another two-day strike tomorrow

  • Thousands of members of Aslef, the train driver’s union, have walked out today
  • It means that ten per cent of trains will run on day dubbed ‘Tragic Thursday’ 
  • Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary said further strikes were ‘inevitable’
  • Mr Whelan warned strikes could escalate after years of no pay increases

It is Groundhog Day for commuters again today as passengers face more travel disruption because of a train driver strike on what has been dubbed ‘Tragic Thursday’.

Services have been hobbled by the walkout by members of Aslef at 15 rail companies in a long-running dispute over pay, with some areas having no trains all day.

The action follows a 48-hour strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union which led to widespread disruption across the country on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The latest wave of industrial action comes as reports suggest the Prime Minister could announce legislation to enforce minimum service levels during strikes as soon as Thursday.

Passengers stand outside the locked gates at the entrance to Southfields underground station in south London waiting for the first train of the day as transport services are impacted during a national rail strike by train drivers from the Aslef union

Travellers speak to station staff outside Victoria Station which is closed to the public this morning

Heavy traffic on the A40 at Perivale in west London on the third of four days of rail strike action this week

The Times newspaper reported that Rishi Sunak is considering measures which could allow employers to sue trade unions and sack workers.

The new law would reportedly apply to six sectors, including the health service, rail, education, fire, border security and nuclear.

However, a significant pay rise for public sector workers is also reportedly under consideration as a means of ending the strikes, according to the paper.

The RMT is staging another 48-hour strike from Friday in its bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Smiling Aslef members on official picket outside the station on another day of strikes last year

Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan says more strikes are coming unless he and members get their way and a pay rise

Passengers at Reading Station on the second day of the new Year rail strikes yesterday

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said it is ‘inevitable’ that further strikes will be held unless there is a breakthrough to the long running row.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said it was ‘inevitable’ that further strikes will be held unless the deadlock is broken.

He warned that strikes could escalate, saying train drivers wanted to go ‘harder and faster’ after years of not receiving a pay rise.

Mr Whelan said he felt rail employers and the Government were ‘playing games’ rather than making any serious attempt to resolve the pay dispute.

‘The situation is getting worse and my members now want to go harder and faster because of the lack of progress.

Thousands of Aslef members working for 15 train operators will walk out, leaving large parts of the country with no trains all day.

The last trains leave London this evening, before a mass strike culls 90 per cent of services

‘We are in a weird world where the Government will do anything to keep private companies in the industry.

‘It is inevitable that more strikes will be held and probably escalate.

‘The train companies say their hands have been tied by the Government. While the Government – which does not employ us – says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.

‘We are always happy to negotiate – we never refuse to sit down at the table and talk – but these companies have offered us nothing, and that is unacceptable.’

Among the operators which will run no trains all day on Thursday are Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Northern, Southern, Southeastern, Thameslink and TransPennine Express.

Rail links to the UK’s two busiest airports will be cut, with Gatwick Express and Heathrow Express shutting down.

21,000 Aslef workers will walk out in a mass strike on what has been dubbed ‘Tragic Thursday’ – with less than ten per cent of train services running

RMT boss Mick Lynch (centre) has accused ministers of ‘undermining efforts to get a settlement’ and added that an agreement was ‘torpedoed’ last month.

Areas where trains will run on Thursday include: Wales; the Central Belt, Fife and the Borders of Scotland; and parts of the South Western Railway network.

Services will also operate on London Overground and the Elizabeth line.

Only around 20% of normal services will run, according to the Rail Delivery Group.

The Prime Minister was asked on Wednesday about the wave of strikes sweeping across the country, replying that his Government’s door was always open for dialogue.

He said: ‘We’re very keen on dialogue. The Government’s door is always open.’

‘You’ll hear more from the Government in the coming days about our approach,’ Mr Sunak said, adding: ‘My view is people should always behave reasonably and fairly and make sure that what we’re doing is centred around what is responsible for the country, what’s affordable for the country.

‘I think that’s the right dialogue to be having, and I hope we can have that dialogue.’

He said ‘people should have the right to strike’, adding ‘that has to be balanced with the right of the British public to go about their lives without suffering completely undue disruption in the way we’ve seen recently’.

Mr Sunak added: ‘And that’s why I have said we will introduce new legislation that restores that balance and crucially protects people’s lives as well as their livelihoods.’

The companies affected by the Aslef strike are Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Great Western Railway; Greater Anglia; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; London North Eastern Railway; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway (depot drivers only); SWR Island Line; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

New TUC leader Paul Nowak has written to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the industrial disputes including those on the railways, in the NHS and the civil service and called for a change in Government direction, saying ministers should open pay negotiations with unions.

In the letter, Mr Nowak said public services were in crisis after years of ‘underfunding and understaffing’.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has warned that industrial action will need to continue beyond May unless a reasonable offer is made to the union.

Talks are due to be held next week in another attempt to find a settlement.

On Wednesday, the DVSA driving examiners’ strike started in London, the South East, South Wales and the South West, while traffic officer service workers at National Highways and Rural Payments Agency staff continued their walkouts.

London bus workers at Abellio began a two-day strike on Wednesday, the first in a series of action planned by the group throughout January.

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