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Cross-border rail travellers hit as thousands of train drivers strike

© Andrew CawleyMembers of ASLEF train driver's union forming a picket line at the entrance to Edinburgh Waverley station, as train strikes loom around the country.
Members of ASLEF train driver's union forming a picket line at the entrance to Edinburgh Waverley station, as train strikes loom around the country.

Cross-border rail travellers faced huge disruption yesterday when thousands of drivers staged another one-day strike.

Members of Aslef in seven train companies, including LNER, which runs on the East Coast Main Line, walked out, crippling services across the UK.

Disruption affected football fans travelling to the opening Saturday of English leagues, and people going to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Ahead of the strike, LNER warned passengers in Scotland not to travel on Saturday because there was a reduced timetable and no trains travelled north of Edinburgh. The last LNER train to London left Edinburgh yesterday afternoon, with no evening service available.

The majority of services north of the border have returned to normal after the resolution of a dispute with ScotRail drivers, but yesterday’s strike is not the last one set to disrupt routes in Scotland. Aslef train drivers strike again on August 13, while workers at Network Rail, as well as 14 other operators, will walk out on August 18 and 20.

Yesterday, members of Aslef mounted a picket line at Edinburgh Waverley from 9am until midday, with the union saying they were receiving strong public support despite the disruption the strike was causing.

Relations between the Government and rail unions have worsened after Mick Whelan, general secretary at Aslef, accused the UK Government’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of lying about negotiations over the strikes.

Shapps had written in The Times: “The ‘Two Micks’, Lynch of the RMT and Whelan of Aslef, are taking the taxpayer for a ride, but not in the way they are meant to. RMT is stalling on reform and Aslef is dragging its feet in negotiations while both call more strikes. Enough.”

In response, Mr Whelan told Times Radio yesterday morning: “I say Mr Shapps is lying, quite simply, quite clearly.

“We’re not dragging our feet in negotiations, we negotiate with 14 private companies, we do not work for the government or the DfT (Department for Transport).”

Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has decided to impose yet more uncertainty and disruption for passengers and businesses in a week which has already seen a strike by the RMT.”

He added: “Like any service or business, we must move with the times and cannot continue to ask taxpayers or passengers for more money when we should instead respond to the huge changes in travel behaviour post Covid.”

Meanwhile, Hitachi rail workers are to strike for three days from today. Members of the RMT whose jobs include maintenance, are in dispute over pay and issues including breaks, leave entitlement and shift length.

RMT general secretary Lynch said: “Our members know the value of their work and will not be short-changed by Hitachi Rail.”