Rail chaos: Union boss claims 'no contact' with Shapps for 2 years as pay row rumbles on

31 July 2022, 12:38

By Sophie Barnett

The boss of the train drivers' union Aslef has claimed there's been "no contact" with the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in over two years as the pay row rumbles on.

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Mick Whelan, the General Secretary of ASLEF, told LBC's Ben Kentish the last time he spoke to the transport secretary was "very early on in the pandemic".

"So you haven't spoken to him for two years? You don't have any contact with the man responsible for our transport system?"

"Not at all," Mr Whelan told Ben.

The union boss said he has called many times publicly for talks to happen, but every time Mr Shapps says it's 'nothing to do with the government'.

It comes after train drivers at seven operators walked out on Saturday in an ongoing row over pay, disrupting the network for those heading to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Read more: Crippling rail strikes and 'amber traffic warning' threaten this weekend's summer getaways

The next strike is planned for Saturday August 13, with more set to cripple the network the following week.

Mr Whelan previously accused Shapps of “ducking and diving” instead of finding a solution to the dispute.

“He could solve this in an instant by allowing the train companies to come to the table with a sensible offer and negotiate with us," he said.

Mr Whelan has accused Shapps of “lying” about negotiations over this summer’s rail strikes after the transport secretary claimed the RMT is “stalling on reform” and that Aslef “is dragging its feet in negotiations”.

The Department for Transport issued a statement on Saturday saying that it is “misleading” to suggest that Shapps should get involved in negotiations over pay and working practices.

Mr Whelan also told LBC he has only been offered "one meeting in 18 months" with the current rail minister, as he appeared to blame the government for shying away from talks.

He warned "the strikes will last until we resolve the situation."

Avanti West Coast is warning about last minute cancellations to its services on Monday because of unofficial strike action from train drivers.

But the drivers' union Aslef has strongly denied its members are walking out, and said it should "stop lying and start recruiting".