Nine months after the national rail strikes began, the biggest rail union is staging four more days of strikes, wrecking journey plans for millions of prospective passengers in the second half of March and into April.
Tens of thousands of members of the RMT union working for 14 train operators will walk out on 16, 18 and 30 March, plus 1 April.
The stoppages, in a dispute over pay and working arrangements, will also hit services on the adjacent days
The train operators, and ministers who will sign off the final settlement, say that a wage rise of 5 per cent for 2022 and 4 per cent for this year is contingent on modernization intended to increase efficiency.
The RMT is seeking a pay increase – the first for three years – without any conditions attached. The union says: “In Scotland and Wales and on London Underground, RMT has won no strings pay offers of between 7-10 per cent for one year. That’s more than double the value of the current Rail Delivery Group [RDG] offer which is over two years.”
These are the key issues for rail passengers.
What will happen on the 16 and 18 March strike days?
In many parts of Great Britain, trains will run as normalincluding the following services:
- Caledonian Sleeper
- Grand Central
- Heathrow Express
- Hull Trains
- London Overground
- Transport for Wales
Tea strikes are affecting train firms contracted by the Department for Transport. They include the leading intercity operators:
- Avanti West Coast
- Cross country
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- Trans Pennine Express
All the main commuter operators will also be hit:
- Greater Anglia
- GTR (Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink)
- South Western Railway
- Operators focusing on the Midlands and north of England will be affected:
- Chiltern Railways
- Northern Trains
- West Midlands Trains
In addition, there is a widespread planned engineering work. For example, on the West Coast main line between Carlisle and southern Scotland is interrupting services through Carstairs.
So, how far can I go?
A wide range of journeys will be possible, for example, from Plymouth to Tain in far north Scotland, via London, Edinburgh and Inverness.
From Holyhead in the far northwest of Wales, it will be possible to travel to London and back within12 hours, with five-and-a-half hours in the capital.
One train operator involved in the strike, c2c, says it will run an almost normal service.
These are the key services on the main train operators that will run on strike days, going clockwise from Kent around Great Britain.
Some routes will operate to/from London. “First trains will leave later and the last trains back from London will be much earlier than usual,” Southeastern says.
“Only 52 out of 180 stations will be open.”
The running routes are:
- High speed services from London to Ashford
- Suburban trains on three routes to Dartford (via Bexley, Bexleyheath and Sidcup)
- Suburban trains to Sevenoaks
- Suburban trains to Bromley South
“Services will be limited across our network with trains finishing earlier, and no trains at all in some areas,” says the operator.
Trains will run roughly 7am-7pm on many lines, with the only missing links being Sutton to Horsham, Wivelsfield to Lewes, and Eastbourne to Hastings and Ashford.
On Saturday 18 March, there will be no trains to and from London Victoria due to planned engineering work.
South Western Railway
The network in and out of the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo, will be severely curtailed, though on the routes that are running, services should be frequent.
The main route to Southampton Central via Woking, Basingstoke and Winchester will see two fast trains per hour in each direction, with many more trains serving Woking and Basingstoke. A train will run hourly from Woking to Guildford, and also between Salisbury and Basingstoke.
Four trains per hour will run in each direction between London Waterloo and Windsor & Eton Riverside.
“Due to long-planned engineering works, there will be no services between Basingstoke and Woking and between Hounslow and Windsor & Eton Riverside on Saturday 18 March,” South Western Railway says.
Great Western Railway
“Services will start at 7.30am and must be completed by around 7.30pm,” says GWR. Hourly trains will run to and from London Paddington on its key lines to Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads, extended every other hour to Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth.
Oxford will also be served from Paddington.
The Cardiff-Westbury line (via Bristol and Bath) will see trains, as will Slough-Windsor, Maidenhead-Marlow, Twyford-Henley and Reading-Basingstoke.
The strike coincides with the Cheltenham Festival, which normally attracts thousands of racegoers by rail.
“A very limited train service will be able to serve Cheltenham, and customers are warned to seek alternative ways to travel to/from the racecourse,” GWR warns.
“The small number of services that can operate will be extremely busy, and last trains will leave much earlier than usual.”
Many more Cheltenham trains will be available on CrossCountry, with services to and from Bristol and Birmingham running approximately 7am-7pm. The operator is telling racegoers: “There will be a queuing system in place at Birmingham, Cheltenham, and Bristol.
“You will need to allow 60 to 90 minutes to queue at Cheltenham, prior to gaining platform access. If you need to travel, please do not leave it until the last train to do so.
“Passengers must allow sufficient time from leaving the racecourse to complete their entire journey home.”
From the hub at Birmingham New Street, there will be one train an hour on most of the key routes: Bristol via Cheltenham; Southampton via Reading; Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh; Leicester; and Manchester via Wolverhampton and Stafford.
The entire Midlands network north of Banbury is closed.
In the southern part there will be hourly trains linking London Marylebone with Oxford Parkway, Banbury and Aylesbury (via both High Wycombe and Amersham).
Avanti West Coast
“We plan to run one train per hour from Euston to each of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Preston,” says the West Coast main line operator.
“These trains will operate during limited hours, with the first train of the day departing Euston just after 7.30am and the last train of the day from Euston departing just after 4pm.
“The significantly reduced timetable on 16 March will mean North Wales, Shrewsbury, Blackpool, Edinburgh, Macclesfield and Stoke-on-Trent will have no Avanti West Coast services.” Some trains will extend north of Preston to Lancaster and Carlisle, but engineering work at Carstairs is blocking direct access to Glasgow.
West Midlands Railway/London Northwestern Railway
Between around 7.30pm and 5.30pm, trains will link Birmingham New Street with Redditch, Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton, Crewe and Northampton via Coventry and Rugby. Northampton will have two trains each hour to and from London Euston.
East Midlands Railway
Hourly links from both Sheffield and Nottingham to London St Pancras will operate, providing a twice-hourly service from Leicester. The link from Corby via Kettering to the capital will be hourly.
Many services will run hourly to and from Nottingham: to Derby, Sheffield, Mansfield Woodhouse and Grantham. There will also be one train per hour between Leicester and Lincoln.
Trains every half hour from London St Pancras to Bedford via Luton airport, with additional stopping services from the capital to Luton.
London North Eastern Railway
LNERthe flagship operator on the East Coast main line, is planning a busy timetable on its core route between London King’s Cross, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The first northbound trains on this line leave the English capital at 7.30am, with the last trains departing at:
- Edinburgh 1pm.
- Newcastle 2.30pm.
- York 4.30pm.
To Leeds, the first train is at 8.05am and the last at 3.05pm.
Timings are similar southbound.
No LNER trains will run north or west of Edinburgh in Scotland, but ScotRail is offering connections.
Trans Pennine Express
Huddersfield to York, Manchester Airport to Preston and Sheffield to Cleethorpes are the only services.
Services will be very limited, with most open routes starting and ending in Leeds: to Hebden Bridge, Ilkley, Skipton, Sheffield (via Moorthorpe), Bradford Forster Square and York.
In addition, trains will run between Liverpool and Manchester airport and between Darlington and Saltburn.
Two trains an hour will operate between London King’s Cross and both Peterborough and Cambridge, with different stopping patterns. One train per hour will extend to Ely with an additional shuttle from Cambridge.
Two stopping trains per hour will run between King’s Cross and Welwyn Garden City, and to Stevenage via Hertford North.
Stansted Airport will be served by two trains an hour from London Liverpool Street.
A busy network of hourly services is planned to and from London Liverpool Street:
- Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester (fast)
- Clacton and Colchester (slow)
“We are running a relatively normal timetable,” says the operator – but warns: “Trains may be busier than normal as people travel with us from other train lines.”