26 Sept 2022

Formal talks to be held next week between Aslef and train companies

Formal talks to be held next week between Aslef and train companies

Rail industry bosses and union group Aslef are expected to hold formal talks next week over a strike which crippled large parts of the UK network on Saturday.

Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, and Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan confirmed that the talks would go ahead following the 24-hour action.

Picket lines were set up across the UK including in Ashford, London, Hull, Manchester and Liverpool amid disputes over jobs, pay and conditions.

Members of Aslef at nine train companies walked out from Saturday morning, leading to rail station closures, cancellations and reduced services.

Aslef said that drivers on strike have not had a pay increase for three years.

They have gained support from other trade unions, such as Unite, and Labour MPs Dawn Butler and Barry Gardiner during their action, which hit Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Mr Whelan said he was “astonished” by the turnout in London, which saw dozens of people stand outside King’s Cross, Euston and Paddington stations in central London and Willesden Junction in north-west London waving banners and signs in 33C heat.

Picketers told the PA news agency the members are appearing on different sites on rotation, while organisers staged their lines near shaded areas and offered water and refreshments to help keep people cool.

Mr Whelan told PA: “I’ve been fed hundreds of pictures from across the UK from Ashford, to Hull, Manchester, Liverpool to numerous places where we’re seeing picket lines of 20-30 people.

“I also want to thank all those other trade unionists and members of civil society that have come out and supported us today – trades councils, other trade unions, local groups.

“This seems to be, as opposed to other transport strikes, (something that) people get, they understand it’s all sectors, all workers, all (doing) something because of the cost-of-living crisis.”

He added he was keen to resolve the issues members are facing and to “get back to his day job”.

Mr Montgomery described the planned formal talks as a “really good step forward”.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It is important we get round the table and we start to have meaningful discussions about how we can look at reform so that we can then offer our staff a pay increase. It is really important we take this opportunity and try and hopefully prevent further strikes and get some result to this situation.”

The union is also balloting drivers at Chiltern Railways, Northern Trains and TransPennine Express for strikes, with the results due later this month.

Members of the RMT and TSSA unions will strike on August 18 and 20, while industrial action will be taken on August 19 by London Underground and London bus drivers.

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