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UK Hospitality Sector Braces for Another Round of Train Strikes

UK train passengers are facing another round of chaos this week as members of the train drivers’ union Aslef stage a series of walkouts in their ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

Three one-day strikes will take place between today (7 May) and Thursday (9 May).

Passengers are urged to check the National Rail website before attempting to travel. Many services will be cancelled entirely, while others will operate on severely reduced routes.

Companies affected are:

  • Tuesday 7 May: c2c, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway main line and depot drivers, and SWR Island Line.

  • Wednesday 8 May: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, and West Midlands Trains.

  • Thursday 9 May: LNER, Northern Trains, and TransPennine Trains.

An overtime ban will also be in effect between Monday 6 May and Saturday 11 May.

Aslef, which represents 96 per cent of UK train drivers, previously held walk-outs in April. 

The London Underground has also experienced station closures due to strikes by TSSA members.

The union rejected an offer of an 8% pay rise over two years from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) in April 2023.  Aslef members overwhelmingly voted to continue striking in February.

Aslef is particularly angered by new minimum service legislation which requires train companies to have adequate staffing to run 40% of services on strike days.

Hospitality Sector Sounds the Alarm

Ahead of the latest strikes, London businesses and the hospitality sector are pleading with both the union and train companies to reach an agreement after nearly two years of disruptions.

Muniya Barua, deputy chief executive of BusinessLDN, told City A.M.: “Yet another round of industrial action across the rail network will cause disruption for businesses and commuters up and down the country. 

Amid weak economic growth, and as we head into a summer trading period which is crucial for retail, leisure and hospitality firms, we urge all parties to work together to resolve these long-running talks and keep the city moving. The impact of these walkouts will be felt even more acutely by many owing to a shorter working week.”

The UK hospitality sector estimates it will have lost over £5bn by the end of 2024 due to the strikes. Kris Hamer, director of insight at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Rail strikes are disruptive for retail, as they limit commuter, leisure and tourist traffic. 

To avoid disruption, many people will opt to work from home, impacting already-vulnerable city centre businesses reliant on their custom. London’s footfall remains down on pre-pandemic levels, and strikes will only slow the progress retailers have made to bring people back to stores.”

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, added that train strikes have cost the sector £387m this year alone. “The hospitality sector supports millions of jobs and generates billions of pounds for the UK economy, but ongoing action is putting this at risk. This dispute has gone on for far too long, and we need all parties to get back round the table to negotiate and reach a solution as soon as possible.”

Rail and Government Responses

A spokesperson for the RDG said: “The rail industry is working hard to keep trains running but it is likely that services on some lines will be affected on the evening before and morning after each strike between May 7 and May 9 because many trains will not be in the right depots to start services the following day. We can only apologise to our customers for this wholly unnecessary strike action called by the Aslef leadership which will sadly disrupt journeys once again.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) stated: “The Transport Secretary and Rail Minister have already facilitated a pay offer that would take train drivers’ average salaries up to £65,000 – almost twice the UK average salary. Aslef are the only union left striking after the government oversaw deals with all the other unions. Instead of causing passengers disruption, they should put this offer to their members and work with industry to end this dispute.”


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