When are the train strikes in November 2022?

Rail passengers in Britain are enduring the longest and most damaging series of strikes since the 1980s.

Industrial action by rail workers has been taking place since June and seems to be intensifying, with October the hardest-hit month so far and industrial action continuing into November.

Great Britain-wide rail strikes or more localised stoppages took place almost every day during the first 10 days of October, with millions of potential journeys disrupted; and the industrial action continues for a number of train operators.

Despite the new transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, meeting rail union leaders, any signs of progress have been dispelled by three fresh walk-outs by RMT members across England, Wales and Scotland for early November,

What is the rail dispute about?

There are actually dozens of individual disputes involving many employers:

  • Network Rail – the infrastructure provider, running the tracks, signalling and some large stations
  • More than a dozen train operators, who are contracted by the Department for Transport (DfT) to run a specified schedule of services.

Four unions are involved:

  • RMT, the main rail union
  • Aslef, representing train drivers
  • Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), the union for white-collar staff in the transport industry
  • Unite, representing some grades in some train operators

But key elements are common to all the disputes:

  • Pay, which the unions say should take into account the current high inflation
  • Jobs, and in particular the prospect of compulsory redundancies
  • Working conditions – with the unions determined to extract a premium from any productivity improvements

Another element has now crept in: an accusation of duplicity against the employers.

The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said the behaviour of Network Rail bosses triggered the latest strike call: “On the one hand they were telling our negotiators that they were prepared to do a deal, while planning to torpedo negotiations by imposing unacceptable changes to our members terms and conditions.

“Our members are livid with these duplicitous tactics, and they will now respond in kind with sustained strike action.”

Network Rail flatly rejects these assertions.

When are the next national strike days?

The RMT has called a series of coordinated strikes.

Members working for Network Rail on 3, 5 and 7 November have been instructed to walk out.

Staff employed by 14 train operating companies will be stopping work on the first to of those dates, 3 and 5 November.

The six long-distance rail firms are:

  • Avanti West Coast,
  • CrossCountry
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Great Western Railway
  • LNER
  • Transpennine Express

Eight shorter-distance operators are also affected:

  • c2c
  • Chiltern Railways
  • Greater Anglia
  • GTR (including Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express)
  • Northern
  • Southeastern
  • South Western Railway
  • West Midlands Trains

Additional strikes on 3 November on the London Underground and Overground.

Will any trains run?

Yes. On the first two strike days – Thursday 3 and Saturday 5 – around one in five trains is likely to run.

On Monday 7 November, when only Network Rail staff are striking, a higher percentage may operate.

But large swathes of Great Britain with no rail services at all because of the absence of Network Rail signallers.

The impact will extend into the day following each national strike, with all six days from 3 to 8 November inclusive affected.

Early trains the day after each strike will be cancelled, with around 75 per cent of services likely to run on Friday 4, Sunday 6 and Tuesday 8 November.

Trains that do run are likely to be busy, because many people who had hoped to travel on strike-hit days will be seeking to rearrange their travel.

The RMT union has coordinated the Network Rail strike with industrial action in separate disputes involving members working for London Underground and London Overground. The aim is to bring as much as possible of the capital to a standstill.

Will Eurostar be affected?

Yes, if the previous pattern is followed, international trains from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam will not run early in the morning from 3 to 8 November inclusive, and will stop early in the evening on 3, 5 and 7 November.

Any other disruption?

Plenty. Train managers on Avanti West Coast who are members of the RMT will walk out on Saturday 22 October and Sunday 6 November in a row over the imposition of rosters.

The train firm says: “Customers should expect our timetable and operating hours to be reduced significantly, and note that services that do run are expected to be busy.”Passengers with advance tickets for either strike date can use them any time from now until 24 October (for tickets on the first strike date) or until 8 November (for the second strike date).

Further strikes by the drivers’ union, Aslef, are likely. Mick Whelan, the general secretary, said: “The morally corrupt train companies signed contracts with the government to say they would not offer more than 2 per cent, knowing we have free collective bargaining, and do not work for the government.

“The train companies have been determined to force our hand. They are telling train drivers to take a real terms pay cut.”

In addition, morale across the rail industry is low, with several train operators reporting higher-than-normal levels of staff sickness.

TransPennine Express, for example, is running a reduced timetable to 10 December at the earliest, with dozens of additional short-notice cancellations.

In addition, members of the TSSA are maintaining an overtime ban at TransPennine Express and Great Western Railway.

What’s happening in Scotland?

Staff at ScotRail are currently refusing overtime as part of a dispute over pay. ScotRail says: “The action short of a strike will see some daily cancellations, as the operation of ScotRail services requires rest day working and overtime as recruitment continues.

“We’re doing everything we can to minimise disruption, and to keep customers updated on which services are impacted.

“The best thing to do is to check your journey in the morning before you travel.”

On Saturday 29 October, ScotRail staff who are members of the RMT will walk out for 24 hours. The train operator says: “We are now assessing the impact this will have on our services and working on contingency arrangements. We will update customers as soon as this is complete.”

Cross-border services run by Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, LNER and TransPennine Express will not be affected.

What do the employers say?

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said: “A two-year 8 per cent deal, with discounted travel and a new extended job guarantee to January 2025, is on the table ready to be put to our staff.

“Unfortunately, the leadership of the RMT seem intent on more damaging strikes rather than giving their members a vote on our offer. Me and my team remain available for serious talks and continue to negotiate in good faith.

“Our sector has a £2bn hole in its budget with many fewer passengers using our services. That reality is not going to change anytime soon and a fair and affordable and improved deal is on the table, ready to be implemented if our people were only offered the opportunity.”

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators, rejects the union claims of profiteering, saying: “Since the end of franchising, the Government has paid train companies a fixed, performance-related fee to run services.

“That means it is the taxpayer who loses money every time the RMT leadership call a strike.

“Instead of repeatedly misrepresenting the industry’s financial position to further its own cause, we call on the RMT to recognise the very real financial challenges faced by the industry post-covid, which are being made worse by these strikes.”

What about the government?

Network Rail is a subsidiary of the DfT, and train operators are contracted by the department to run services. So ultimately ministers call the shots on pay and conditions.

The rail minister, Kevin Foster, says: “The lasting consequences of Covid-19 on passenger numbers and revenue, and the impact of strikes on railway customers, have increased the need for reform.

“It is important that the unions sit down, stop striking and get on with coming to a deal that is fair not just for workers but for taxpayers, who have put £16bn into supporting our railways over the last couple of years.

At the Conservative conference his boss, transport secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said “there is a deal to be done”.

The unions have welcomed the replacement of the previous transport secretary, Grant Shapps, with Ms Trevelyan.

Both the big rail unions successfully campaigned alongside the new transport secretary during the Brexit referendum, with the RMT urging its members: “Leave the EU to end attacks on rail workers. Leave the EU to end austerity. Leave the EU to support democracy.”

I have a ticket booked for a strike day. What are my options?

You can generally travel a day or two before a strike, or a day or two after, with no formality. Alternatively, you can ask for a full refund – including both halves of a return ticket if only one direction is affected by a strike.

“If you purchased your ticket from another provider, you will need to approach them directly,” the train firms say.

Am I taking a risk by buying tickets for later in November or December?

Only if you then also commit to non-refundable spending that will be lost if you can’t make the journey – for example a hotel or event tickets.

Are any parts of the UK unaffected by these rail strikes?

Yes, so far railways in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight line have avoided industrial action.

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