New train driver strike coincides with Tory conference

Train drivers will strike on September 30 and October 4 to coincide with the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, a union has announced.

Aslef said the companies affected by the strikes include Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, c2c, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, Great Western Railway, Island Line, LNER, Northern, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and West Midlands trains.

As well as striking, drivers on the rail network will also observe an overtime ban on September 29 and from October 2 to 6 – which the union said would “severely disrupt the network” due to what it said was the failure of the privatized train companies “employ enough drivers to provide a proper service”.

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The fresh industrial action will come as a blow Rishi Sunakwho has his first Conservative party conference as leader and prime minister disrupted by separate strikes by junior doctors and consultants.

Transport Minister Mark Harper immediately criticized the new strikes, accusing them of being “politically motivated”.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, he said there was an “offer on the table” to increase their wages to £65,000.

“Still they are striking and putting their own jobs at risk,” he wrote.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said that while union members “regret having to take this action – we don’t want to lose a day’s pay or disrupt passengers trying to travel by train – the government and employers have forced us into this position”.

He added: “Our members haven’t had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – and it’s not right when prices have skyrocketed in that time.

“Train drivers would reasonably like to be able to buy now what they could buy four years ago.”

Younger doctors and consultants in England announced they will launch joint strike action for the first time over four days across this month and next – including October 4.

Aslef’s strikes are just the latest development in the ongoing battle between the union and the government over wages and working conditions.

There have already been serious disruptions to the rail network this summer, with a 24-hour strike in early September coincides with the last weekend of the summer holidays.

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