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Train strikes to continue until August 2024 as Aslef railway drivers vote to continue walkouts

Train drivers at five rail operators have voted to continue taking strike action for six months in the long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

Aslef says its members on Chiltern, C2C, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine railways had overwhelmingly backed carrying on with action, which began in July 2022.

Unions involved in disputes have to reballot their members every six months on continuing with industrial action.

The train drivers are in dispute with all 14 train operating companies [TOCs] controlled by the UK government and represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). No progress has been made since an offer was made, and immediately rejected, in April 2023. It offered a modest pay increase contingent on wide-ranging reforms to working practices.

In the latest ballots, the lowest percentage in favour of more strikes was 89.4 per cent at C2C, which links London with south Essex. All the rest were above 90 per cent.

In terms of all eligible members, the highest majority in favour of strikes were at the north of England operators, Northern (72 per cent) and TransPennine Express (73 per cent). Both are run by the government. C2C had the lowest proportion, at 63 per cent.

Announcing the voting figures, Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef said: “These results show – yet again – a clear rejection by train drivers of the ridiculous offer put to us in April last year by the Rail Delivery Group on behalf of the train operating companies with whom we are in dispute.

“The RDG knew the offer would be rejected because we had told them that a land grab for all the terms and conditions we have negotiated over the years would be unacceptable.

“Since then our members have voted, time and again, for strikes. That’s why Mark Harper, the transport secretary, is being disingenuous when he says that offer should have been put to members.

“Drivers obviously wouldn’t vote for industrial action, again and again and again, if they thought that was a good offer. They don’t.

“That offer was dead in the water in April last year – and I think Mr Harper knows that.”

But Mr Whelan offered an olive branch of sorts to ministers and the employers, saying: “We remain open and willing, as ever, to talk about a revised offer.

“That’s why we are asking the secretary of state for transport, or the rail minister Huw Merriman, to come and meet us. Mr Harper hasn’t seen fit to talk to us since December 2022; Mr Merriman has not been in the room with us since January 2023; and the RDG has not talked to us since April last year.

“Today we are saying, clearly, to Mr Harper, Mr Merriman, the RDG and the TOCs: come and talk to us. Let’s sit around the table and negotiate. You don’t want any more strikes, and we do not want to be forced to take any more industrial action, although we have the renewed mandates to do just that.”

The Independent has asked the RDG and the Department for Transport for a response.

Since national rail strikes began in the summer of 2022, hundreds of millions of journeys have been cancelled. Billions of pounds have been lost to the UK economy, particularly hospitality businesses – and taxpayers are subsidising an increasingly decrepit and unreliable railway to the tune of £90 per second on top of the normal public funding.

In a snap social media poll for The Independent, with 2,142 responses, one in three passengers say they will permanently travel less after the industrial action finally ends.

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