Will your train journey be affected over the Christmas period? December strikes explained

1 December 2023, 10:21

Aslef union has promised rolling strikes between 1 and 9 December
Aslef union has promised rolling strikes between 1 and 9 December. Picture: Alamy

By Sam Rucker

Rail passengers face travel chaos throughout the Christmas period, despite the RMT union voting to end their strikes – find out if your train line is set to be affected this December.

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The Aslef union, representing 96 per cent of train drivers in England, Scotland, and Wales, has promised rolling strikes between 1 and 9 December (see details below).

Its general secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “We are going on strike again not to inconvenience passengers, but to express our disgust at the intransigence of this government, and the bad faith shown by the private companies which employ us.”

This follows Mich Lynch, RMT union's general secretary, congratulating his members earlier this week after they unanimously voted to end their “steadfastness in [their] long industrial campaign”.

Read more: Pubs and bars urge Aslef to follow in lead of RMT ahead of rail strikes

RMT accepted a backdated pay rise of 5% for 2022-23 as well as job security guarantees until 2024.

Aslef train drivers are demanding a deal of their own, asking for a no-strings pay increase.

The train driver union said many of its members have not been given a wage rise in five years, despite the spiralling cost of living.

Aslef said it has not held talks with rail operators since April or ministers since January, dampening hopes a deal can soon be reached.

Read more: Nurses 'disgusted' as doctors reach bumper pay deal with government as they warn of more strikes

The Department for Transport said Aslef's strikes, “targeting the public and hospitality businesses at the beginning of the festive period”, were “disappointing”.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group described the strikes as wholly unnecessary”.

Their upcoming strikes include a nine-day overtime ban, causing thousands of cancellations from 1 to 9 December.

To maximise disruption, a different part of the country will be targeted on each day, apart from 4 December.

Fourteen rail operated will be affected, which are:

Intercity operators:

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

London commuter operators:

  • C2C
  • Greater Anglia
  • GTR (Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink)
  • Southeastern
  • South Western Railway (including the Island Line on the Isle of Wight)

Operators focusing on the Midlands and north of England:

  • Chiltern Railways
  • Northern Trains
  • West Midlands Railway

Aslef train drivers will walk out on the following days on the following operators:

  • Saturday 2 December: East Midlands Railway and LNER.
  • Sunday 3 December: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink and West Midlands Trains
  • Monday 4 December: no strikes
  • Tuesday 5 December: C2C and Greater Anglia
  • Wednesday 6 December: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway
  • Thursday 7 December: CrossCountry and GWR
  • Friday 8 December: Northern and TransPennine Trains

Rail firms, which already announced pre-emptive cancellations or amendments to their schedules, are:

  • C2C: “Severely reduced service” at weekends, with many trains also cut on weekdays.
  • Chiltern: Significantly reduced service on most routes, with no trains at all on some branch lines. “Services on all routes will finish earlier than usual.” On 1 December, the company warns: “Chiltern Railways are unable to serve the England (Lionesses) vs Netherlands event at Wembley Stadium. No trains will call at Wembley Stadium all day.”
  • Gatwick Express: No trains from 1 to 9 December except on Sunday 3 December – when a normal service will operate. Southern trains will link London Victoria and Gatwick airport throughout the industrial action.
  • London Northwestern Railway/West Midlands Railway: Branch lines between Bletchley and Bedford, Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, and Leamington Spa and Nuneaton, will be closed on most or all days.
  • Southern: “An amended timetable with fewer services will run. Services may start later and finish earlier than usual.”
  • Thameslink warns: “A reduced frequency amended timetable will be in operation.”

On 1 December several early train were cancelled, including South Western Railway from London Waterloo to Southampton; Great Western Railway from London Paddington to Weston-super-Mare via Bristol and Carmarthen via Cardiff and Swansea; and TransPennine Express links from Manchester and Newcastle to Edinburgh, as well as a number of Manchester-Leeds-Hull services.

Passengers at Waterloo Railway Station as Aslef are to hold another series of one day strikes
Passengers at Waterloo Railway Station as Aslef are to hold another series of one day strikes. Picture: Alamy

The following are the likely impacts when drivers walk out ( passengers should always check closer to the day of travel):

  • East Midlands Railway (2 December): No trains. “Do Not Travel. No Rail Replacement Bus services will be provided.”
  • LNER (2 December): Regular trains on core routes linking London King’s Cross with Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • Avanti West Coast (3 December): No trains. “Services on the days either side of the strike will also be affected.”
  • Chiltern (3 December): No trains.
  • West Midlands Railway (3 December): No trains.
  • Great Northern (3 December): No trains.
  • Thameslink (3 December): No trains.
  • C2C (5 December): No trains
  • Greater Anglia (5 December): Limited service linking London Liverpool Street with Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester; Southend Victoria; Cambridge; and Stansted airport.
  • Southeastern (6 December): No trains.
  • Southern (6 December): No trains except a nonstop shuttle service between London Victoria and Gatwick airport, from 6am to 11.30am.
  • Gatwick Express (6 December): No trains but the Southern airport shuttle will cover the ground.
  • South Western Railway (6 December): A core service of up to four trains per hour between London Waterloo with Woking, with one train each hour extended to both Guildford and Basingstoke. A shuttle will run from Basingstoke to Salisbury. Trains will also run between Waterloo and Feltham via Richmond and Twickenham.
  • CrossCountry (7 December): No trains. “Services may start later than usual on Friday 8 December as a result of the industrial action the day before.”
  • Great Western Railway (GWR, 7 December): A core service will run between London Paddington and Oxford, Bath and Bristol, with a link from Bristol to Cardiff. A limited service on branch lines in Devon and Cornwall. The Night Riviera sleeper service from London to Penzance will not run until Friday 6 October.
  • Heathrow Express (7 December): Reduced service between 7am and 7pm only.
  • Northern (8 December): No trains.
  • TransPennine Express (8 December): No trains.

There will be some services which remain immune from the industrial action, including:

  • Caledonian Sleeper
  • ScotRail
  • Transport for Wales
  • Elizabeth Line
  • Grand Central
  • Hull Trains
  • London Overground
  • Lumo
  • Merseyrail
  • ScotRail
  • Transport for Wales
  • Eurostar

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