Taxi drivers are getting ready to help people continue their festive preparations as the latest wave of rail strikes hits the UK.
Members of the Aslef union are walking out this week as part of a long-running dispute over pay and conditions. The BBC reports that train drivers are striking on four separate days in different parts of the network and refusing to work overtime throughout.
Unlike last year’s widespread action, RMT members will not be taking part in the current strikes after recently accepting a new pay offer. This means that while the current industrial action is on a smaller scale, it will still cause disruption to large areas as people try to do their Christmas shopping and prepare for Christmas Day.
Wherever they are travelling, passengers are being warned to check their journeys for any disruption and plan alternative routes, including taking taxis.
The first in a series of rolling strikes took place yesterday with the C2C, Greater Anglia and Gatwick Express service.
The BBC reports that strikes resumed today with a 24-hour stoppage by drivers at C2C and Greater Anglia. It adds: “The wave of rolling strikes started at the weekend, stopping all trains on East Midlands and most on LNER on Saturday, and all on Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink and West Midlands on Sunday.
“C2C, the Essex commuter service, will run no trains at all. Greater Anglia will run a limited service, with only a few trains operating on main lines to London, including the Stansted Express.
“More strikes will follow at Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express and South Western on Wednesday; at CrossCountry and GWR on Thursday; and at Northern and TransPennine Express on Friday.”
According to The Guardian, Aslef said it had previously called members to strike on the same day, but by spreading the action the ramifications would be “greater”.
It said the union rejected a two-year offer of 4% in 2022 and another 4% this year, saying it is way below inflation, and is linked to changes in terms and conditions.
While Christmas shoppers and those planning to travel during the festivities might be hoping for a festive miracle to resolve the dispute, it does not appear that a resolution is around the corner.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan told Sky News that he has not had any talks with employers since April and has not met Transport Secretary Mark Harper since last December.
He said: “Our members, who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now, are determined that the train companies and the Tory government that stands behind them do the right thing.
“The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out.
“The bosses at the train companies – as well as Tory MPs and government ministers – have had increases in pay. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less.
“These are key workers who kept the country moving throughout the pandemic. They are simply asking for a fair and decent deal.”
Anyone planning to travel during the festive period, especially by train, should check timetables for any disruption and plan their journey another way, either by booking a taxi or taking a coach and grabbing a cab at either end.
And the disruption on the rails means taxis will be busier than normal so booking in advance is strongly recommended.