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More travel misery for passengers as rail strike confirmed

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Train drivers at eight rail operators will strike on Saturday 30 July amid an ongoing row over pay, union ASLEF has announced.

The strike will affect rail services run by Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains on Saturday 30 July. See’s Rail strikes: Your travel and refund rights for more information.

The Commonwealth Games are being held in Birmingham that day while thousands of football fans heading to matches across England for the first date of the English League season will have to contend with major disruption.

Drivers on Greater Anglia will also strike on Saturday 23 July, and drivers on Hull Trains will also strike on Saturday 16 and Saturday 23 July.

It comes a day after RMT confirmed rail workers and train guards will strike on Wednesday 27 July, the union’s fourth rail strike since the start of June as it too battles for higher pay and job security.

ASLEF general secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “We don’t want to go on strike – strikes are the result of a failure of negotiation – and since I was elected to run this union in 2011, we have only ever been on strike for a handful of days until this year.”

‘Real terms pay cut’

Whelan claimed drivers don’t want to inconvenience passengers “not least because our friends and families use public transport too and we believe in building trust in the railways in Britain”.

But he said: “We’ve been forced into this position by the train companies, driven by the Tory government. The drivers at the companies where we are striking have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years – since April 2019. And these companies are offering us nothing, saying their hands have been tied by the government.”

Train drivers earn on average £60,000 a year, which the Department for Transport has previously been at pains to point out is more than twice the median British salary.

Inflation is currently running at over 9% and is set to hit more than 11% in the autumn. Energy bills and food costs have risen particularly sharply, piling financial pressure on households across the UK.

Whelan added: “Drivers are being told to take a real terms pay cut. And that is not acceptable. Strike action is, now, the only option available.”

He said the union would reconsider the strike if train companies or the government “make a fair and sensible offer”.

Whelan said: “It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for a third successive year. Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain’s railways with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers.”

ASLEF agreed pay deals earlier this year with DB Cargo, Direct Rail Services, Eurostar, Freightliner Heavy Haul, Freightliner Intermodal, GB Railfreight, Merseyrail, MTR Elizabeth line, PRE Metro Operations and ScotRail.

‘Destructive strike action’

Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that, just three days after their ballots closed, ASLEF bosses have already opted for destructive strike action, instead of engaging in constructive talks.

“Not only that but, by seemingly coordinating strike dates around the Commonwealth Games, it’s clear union bosses are determined to cause as much misery as possible and derail an event the whole country is looking forward to.

“Our railway is in desperate need of modernisation to make it work better for passengers and be financially sustainable for the long-term. I urge union bosses to reconsider this divisive action and instead work with their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.”