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Photograph: © Andy Parsons

London train strikes: everything you need to know

Has London’s public-transport strike misery been put on hold for now?

Chris Waywell
India Lawrence
Written by
Chris Waywell
India Lawrence

Which London train strikes have been suspended and why?

The strikes by RMT workers across 14 UK train operators on Thursday March 30 and Saturday April 1 have been suspended. It comes after talks with the Rail Delivery Group towards resolving a pay dispute. It also follows workers at Network Rail accepting a pay offer.

So, is that the end of the strikes on London’s public transport?

Not necessarily. Suspending these two strikes is probably an expedient gesture of goodwill by the RMT for a bit of added leverage at the negotiating table. The union said in a statement: ‘The dispute remains on and the union will continue to make preparations for a re-ballot when the current mandate runs out in mid-May.’

Which London train lines would have been affected?

Thanks to the suspension of the Network Rail strikes, the action won’t be as severe as expected, but there will still be disruption in London. 

These London train operators will be affected by the March and April strikes: 

C2C, Greater Anglia, GTR (Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink), Southeastern and South Western Railway. 

Read our explainer on what is and isn’t operational in London on strike days. 


Are there more transport strikes planned for London in the future?

The RMT said at the beginning of the year that there would be at least a further six months of strikes across the National Rail and the tube in 2023 following a ballot: 94 percent of its members voted to continue industrial action over pay and pensions. On February 10, Mick Lynch said strikes would continue for ‘as long as it takes’, adding that extending strikes to November could be ‘a possibility’. As a large number of RMT members work for London Underground, these strikes could very well affect TfL services. 

That may now change with the suspension of these two strikes. However, Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, recently told the government there was ‘zero’ chance of solving the disputes involving National Rail and London Underground soon. 

Who’s on strike today in the UK?

Here’s a full list of striking workers in the UK.

Will strikes affect the Eurostar? 

Eurostar will assess how future strikes will affect its timetable when they are announced. In the past, it has run a reduced timetable, with passengers being able to transfer tickets if their train is cancelled. The latest details are on the Eurostar website.  

Why are UK train workers striking?

The RMT and Aslef have been fighting for a pay rise and better working conditions for more than a year. 

About the March strikes, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Rail employers are not being given a fresh mandate by the government to offer our members a new deal on pay, conditions and job security. Therefore, our members will now take sustained and targeted industrial action over the next few months.

‘The government can settle this dispute easily by unshackling the rail companies. However, its stubborn refusal to do so will now mean more strike action across the railway network and a very disruptive overtime ban.'

In February, Aslef rail workers rejected a pay rise that would amount to around 4 percent a year for two years.

Whelan said: ‘The proposal is not and could not ever be acceptable but we are willing to engage in further discussions within the process that we previously agreed. Not only is the offer a real-terms pay cut, with inflation running north of 10 percent, but it came with so many conditions attached that it was clearly unacceptable.’

For tube workers, the concern is working conditions and pensions. On February 22, Finn Brennan, Aslef district organiser for London, said: ‘The size of these “yes” votes and the large turnouts show that our members are not prepared to put up any longer with the threats to their working conditions and pensions.

‘We understand that TfL faces financial challenges, post-pandemic, but our members are simply not prepared to pay the price for the government’s failure to properly fund London’s public transport system.’

A TfL spokesperson said: ‘We have not proposed changes to anyone’s pensions.’

However, Lynch said: ‘Our members will never accept job losses, attacks on their pensions or changes to working conditions in order to pay for a funding cut which is the government’s political decision. Tube workers provide an essential service to the capital, making sure the city can keep moving and work long hours in demanding roles.

‘In return, they deserve decent pensions, job security and good working conditions and the RMT will fight tooth and nail to make sure that’s what they get.’

What will the government’s proposed anti-strike laws mean for London?

Earlier this year, the government announced controversial new industrial action laws. Rishi Sunak’s proposed anti-strike legislation would ensure ‘minimum service levels’ on key public services, including trains, making it pretty difficult for things to grind to a complete halt. 

The law, which the government wants to introduce soon, would allow bosses in rail, health, fire, ambulance, education and nuclear commissioning to sue unions and even sack employees if minimum services aren’t met during strikes. 

However, many people, including opposition leader Sir Kier Starmer, have expressed concern that these laws could infringe on workers’ fundamental right to strike.

As for London trains, the legislation could make strike action less severe. With a minimum service, it would be less likely for there to be absolutely no tubes, Overgrounds or trains.

What’s working? How to get around London on strike days.

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