Rail workers will stage a new strike in the ongoing dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, threatening travel chaos at the height of the summer holidays.
Train drivers at eight rail companies are to stage a 24-hour Saturday strike later this month, union Aslef has announced.
It follows the previous rail strikes over three days in June where RMT workers walked out in a row over pay and jobs.
Union leaders made the announcement after rejecting a new offer from Network Rail which they described as “paltry”.
The offer was for a 4% pay rise backdated to January, another 2% next year and a further 2% conditional on achieving “modernisation milestones”.
The strike action in June shut down 80% of services on strike days and caused knock-on disruption on the days around them.
When are the strike dates?
Members of Aslef at Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains will walk out on 30 July.
Drivers on Greater Anglia will also strike on 23 July, and those on Hull Trains will strike on 16 and 23 July.
The action is in addition to a planned strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at train companies and Network Rail on 27 July - and by TSSA members on Avanti West Coast on the same day.
RMT have also confirmed that members at Network Rail will also strike on 18 and 20 August.
Aslef also announced that further ballots will close at Avanti West Coast and CrossCountry on Wednesday 27 July, as well as ballots at Northern Trains, TransPennine Express and Transport for Wales on Thursday 25 August.
The Aslef strike will take place just days after the start of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
What has been said about why the strike is happening?
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the train drivers have “been forced into this position by the train companies, driven by the Tory Government.”
He said: “We don’t want to go on strike – strikes are the result of a failure of negotiation – and this union, since I was elected general secretary in 2011, has only ever been on strike, until this year, for a handful of days.
“We 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, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike.”
He added: “But 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.”
Mr Whelan said “these companies are offering us nothing, saying their hands have been tied by the Government and that means, in real terms, with inflation running ahead at 9%, 10%, and even 11% this year, according to which index you use, that they are being told to take a real-terms pay cut, and that is not acceptable.”
He said: “Strike action is now the only option available but we are always open to talks if the train companies, or the Government, want to talk to us and make a fair and sensible offer.”
What has Mick Lynch said about the new action?
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The offer from Network Rail represents a real terms pay cut for our members and the paltry sum is conditional on RMT members agreeing to drastic changes in their working lives.
“We have made progress on compulsory redundancies, but Network Rail are still seeking to make our members poorer when we have won in some cases double what they are offering, with other rail operators.
“The train operating companies remain stubborn and are refusing to make any new offer which deals with job security and pay.
“Strike action is the only course open to us to make both the rail industry and Government understand that this dispute will continue for as long as it takes, until we get a negotiated settlement.
“The public who will be inconvenienced by our strike action need to understand that it is the Government’s shackling of Network Rail and the TOCs that means the rail network will be shut down for 24 hours.”
What has the Transport Secretary said?
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 cynically orchestrating 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.”
He added: “Train drivers, such as those Aslef represent, earn, on average, just under £60,000 – more than twice the UK average and significantly more than the very workers who will be most impacted by these strikes despite stumping up £600 per household to keep the railway running throughout the pandemic.
“Our railway is in desperate need of modernisation to make it work better for passengers and be financially sustainable for the long term.”
Mr Schapps said he urges union bosses “to reconsider this divisive action and instead work worth their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.”
Will there be more rail strikes?
Mr Lynch’s comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the public had a right to expect reforms to rail services.
He told Sky News: “I would say, given the circumstances we’re in, I think what we want to see is reform and improvement in the way the railways work, and modernisation.
“When you’ve got a 25% fall in ridership, which we’ve got at the moment, we’ve got the Government putting billions and billions [into it].
“I think the travelling public has a right to expect some basic reforms, like with ticket offices, like with walking time, and some of these other practices that really nobody defends except the union leaders.”