ondon is braced for a double whammy of travel misery with train drivers walking out in the latest strike on Friday followed by a day of industrial action by other rail staff on Saturday.
The effects of the walkout will bring chaos to the network with knock-on effects on the roads and even air travel with no Gatwick Express trains on Friday and only what the airport describes as a “severely limited” service on Saturday with disruption expected to carry over into Sunday.
Southeastern Trains, which connects London with Kent and East Sussex, said it is not running a service at all on Friday due to the ASLEF strike and the next day’s walkout by RMT members means there will be a “limited” service on Saturday with only 58 out of 180 stations open and Kent trains only going as far as Sevenoaks and Dartford.
Southern, which runs commuter trains from London Bridge and Victoria to East and West Sussex as well as Hampshire, Kent and Surrey has no service on Friday cutting off the capital from places including Bognor Regis, Brighton and Southampton.
It also warned travellers Saturday’s strike would leave it with “limited” services with many trains starting later and finishing earlier than normal.
Transport for London said the Elizabeth Line and London Overground would be affected on Saturday with services to destinations including Reading, Brentwood, Watford and Shenfield starting later and finishing earlier.
Trains on the District Line between Richmond and Gunnersbury will be affected all weekend with early and late trains cancelled.
The strikes will likely force many Londoners onto the roads just as National Highways are closing part of the northbound A12 between junction 12 and junction 15 for improvement works starting at 8pm Friday and running to 6am Monday.
National Highways Project Manager Nisar Ahmad said: “We are sorry for the inconvenience this weekend work will cause, but we are doing everything we can to minimise disruption at the busiest times; that is why we are working at weekends and overnight.”
Avanti West Coast, which links Euston to the north of England, Scotland and North Wales said “options to travel by rail will be extremely limited” and warned “rail replacement services will not be in place either”.
It added it will run its hourly service between London and Liverpool on Saturday when the city hosts the Eurovision Grand Final but only at around two thirds capacity.
Richard Burge, Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said the strikes were “a lose-lose situation” for London’s economy.
He said: “As we approach the summer and in turn the influx of tourists to the UK and London, we must uphold our reputation as a global city open to visitors, and a well-functioning transport network is a key part of this. Moreover, as the gateway to the UK, London has a particular role to play in opening up regions across the UK to international business and leisure visitors – if we don’t have trains running, these regions across the country will lose out.
“LCCI urges all parties involved to work cooperatively and productively to come up with a solution to stop this madness and get our world-class transport system back on track.”
Further Aslef strikes are also planned for May 31 and June 3 – the day of the FA Cup final at Wembley. Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said his members “do not want to go on strike”.
He said: “But the blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand over this by their intransigence.
“It is now up to them to come up with a more sensible, and realistic, offer and we ask the Government not to hinder this process.
“We have been negotiating with employers – the train operating companies – for many months on pay. On several companies we have managed to come to an agreement, and on several others, multi-year deals have been honoured.
“Unfortunately a number of companies still have their hands tied by the Department for Transport and aren’t able to negotiate a reasonable deal with Aslef members.
“We are still prepared to negotiate in good faith but, unfortunately, as we have been unable to come to an agreement, we have had to consider industrial action.”
Aslef said a 4% pay offer was “risible and obviously unacceptable”.
Steve Montgomery, who chairs the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect our passengers’ daily commute but will also impact those travelling from outside Liverpool and London to come to Eurovision and the FA Cup final, causing disappointment and frustration for those who have planned to attend.
“It will also further burden our people who have already lost thousands of pounds at a time of financial strain.
“We understand the impact of these strikes on individuals and businesses alike, and we can only apologise for this unnecessary and damaging disruption.
“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately there will be reduced train services across the network between Friday May 12 and Saturday June 3, so our advice is to check before you travel. Passengers with Advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.”