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Major event set to be affected as fresh rail strikes are confirmed for October

Empty platforms at King’s Cross railway station in London (PA)
Empty platforms at King’s Cross railway station in London (PA)

A rail union has confirmed that train drivers at 12 companies will stage fresh strikes next month, continuing the industrial unrest that has hit several sectors this summer.

Members of Aslef will walk out on October 1 and 5, which will affect travel for delegates and visitors to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

A strike planned for last week was called off as a mark of respect following the Queen’s death.

Aslef said it is in for the “long haul” as the rail disputes remain deadlocked.

General secretary Mick Whelan said: “We would much rather not be in this position. We don’t want to go on strike – withdrawing your labour, although a fundamental human right, is always a last resort for this trade union – but the train companies have been determined to force our hand.

“They are telling train drivers to take a real-terms pay cut. With inflation now running at 12.3% – and set, it is said, to go higher – these companies are saying that drivers should be prepared to work just as hard, for just as long, but for considerably less.

“The companies with whom we are in dispute have not offered us a penny. It is outrageous that they expect us to put up with a real-terms pay cut for a third year in a row.

“That’s why we are going on strike – to persuade the companies to be sensible, to do the right thing, and come and negotiate properly with us, not to run up and say, ‘Our hands are tied and the Government will not allow us to offer you an increase’.

“Train drivers kept Britain moving – key workers and goods around the country – throughout the pandemic and we deserve to be treated better than this.

“That’s why we are calling on the companies – which are making big profits and paying their chief executives enormous salaries and bonuses – to make a pay offer to our members to keep up with the rise in the cost of living.”

Aslef members at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Northern Trains, Southeastern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains will be involved in the new strikes.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “These strikes will once again hugely inconvenience the very passengers the industry needs to support its recovery from the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

“They range from those left out of pocket because they can’t get to work, to people missing vital appointments and to thousands of London marathon participants, who, after months of training, will have their journeys to London disrupted at the weekend.

“The strikes are not in the long-term interests of rail workers or building a sustainable rail industry. We want to give our people a pay rise, but without the reforms we are proposing, we simply cannot deliver pay increases.

“Revenue is still around 80% of pre-pandemic levels, no business can survive that scale of upheaval without implementing change.

“The actions of union leaders have very real consequences: every strike day takes more money out of their members’ pockets.

“We want to see the industry and its people thrive – we are asking the unions’ leadership to do the right thing, call off these damaging strikes and work with us to make that happen.”