Rail travel blighted by overtime ban
04 August 2023
Passengers travelling by train in England have just experienced another week of ‘action short of a strike’ – in other words an overtime ban – by members of the train drivers’ union Aslef.
As a result, some train companies have scaled back the timetable – for instance running hourly instead of half-hourly. And passengers have still faced cancellations on top of that already reduced timetable. If a normally half-hourly service is thinned to hourly and then there’s a cancellation ‘due to a shortage of train drivers’ it leaves a damaging two-hour gap between trains – and often crowding on the next one that runs.
Perhaps the most headline hitting impact of this week’s action is the decision that there will be NO trains to or from Brighton on Saturday 5 August, the first day of Brighton and Hove Pride. Because of the overtime ban it seems that too few trains could run to safely manage the numbers likely to descend on Brighton station on Saturday evening. A lot of people will have their weekend disrupted as a result. And it’s not just Pride, of course, if you live in Brighton and have a holiday flight from Gatwick on Saturday, you’ll have to get there some other way.
And it’s not over. Aslef members at various train companies in England won’t be working overtime next week: there is more ‘action short of a strike’ from Monday 7 to Saturday 12 August. Again, there’ll be a pared back timetable on some train companies and dreaded short notice cancellations on others – details on National Rail Enquiries.
For passengers’ sake the two sides must keep talking, keep exploring options to find a deal. People have been messed about for too long. Whether it’s no trains at all, reduced timetables or short notice cancellations, passengers are getting a raw deal. People are losing faith in the railway as a reliable way to get about – and they may not come back. Depressingly, there is talk of unions announcing new strike dates for later this month and into September. Passengers really need a resolution to this dispute.