Express & Star

Full advice for travellers as Black Country hit by train strikes with no services running

Strike action taking place today will impact the Black Country in a major way, with operators like West Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast affected.

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The message from Avanti is clear, as this is the image they posted on social media.

Members of the ASLEF, the RMT and TSSA unions are all taking part in the industrial action and it involves drivers and train crew.

As a result, there are no services operating on West Midlands Railway, London Northwestern Railway or Avanti West Coast.

Delegates travelling to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham will also no doubt have some travel problems.

Some early morning services on October 2 will also be hit, due to "displacement of trains."

Advice from the train operators

Avanti West Coast say their stations will be closed today and are advising people not to travel by rail.

They also say that people with a ticket dated October 1 can claim a full refund or can use the tickets anytime between now and October 10. You can visit their refunds page HERE.

You can also amend your ticket and instructions on how to do that can be found HERE.

West Midlands Railway are also offering full refunds. There's a link to their refunds policy HERE.

It is however worth noting that if you purchased your ticket from a third party, you have to contact the third party for a refund.

There are no CrossCountry running either, and there'll be a later start to services on Sunday as trains begin from 9am.

CrossCountry say: "If you have a ticket for Saturday 1 October, you can travel on Friday 30 September or up to and including Tuesday 4 October without the need to amend your ticket.

"Until 30 November 2022, you can change the time and date of your tickets or get a refund as a Rail Travel Voucher.

"If you request a refund or change your journey before 18.00 on the day before you travel, there is no admin fee."

The full information pack is HERE.

What the unions are saying

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, told the PA news agency earlier this week that his members are increasingly angry at the lack of progress in the dispute.

“We don’t want to be on strike but this dispute will continue until the Government lifts the shackles from the train companies.

“The message I am receiving from my members is that they want more industrial action, so I think more strikes are inevitable.”

It was reported that Mr Whelan will tell a rally in Birmingham, organised by the campaign group Enough Is Enough: “We would much rather not be in this position. Withdrawing your labour, although a fundamental human right, is always a last resort, but the companies, with the unseen hand of the Government right behind them, seem determined to force our hand.

“They are telling train drivers to take a real-terms pay cut. With inflation now running at 12.3%, they are saying that drivers who have not had an increase for three years should be prepared to work just as hard, for just as long, for considerably less.

“The companies with whom we are in dispute have not offered us a penny, and we think it is outrageous that they expect us to put up with a real-terms pay cut for a third year in a row.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has written to Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, urging her to take “urgent steps to allow a negotiated settlement” after the union said latest figures showed railway bosses benefiting from government tax cuts.

Railway industry bosses stand to gain up to £61,000 a year from the Chancellor’s tax cuts, more than most RMT members will earn in a year and in many cases twice as much, the union said.

Mr Lynch, who met Ms Trevelyan last month, wrote: “As you know, when we met, I described the meeting as ‘positive’ but the only public statement since then has been from the Chancellor during his fiscal event stating he will be bringing forward legislation to remove rail workers’ right to strike.

“Despite our positive discussion, the Chancellor’s intervention has made an already difficult dispute harder to resolve.

“I am also concerned the Government has recently been taking action that is lining the pockets of the ‘railway rich’ whilst rail workers continue to endure pay freezes and real-terms pay cuts.

“The privatised rail industry is largely dependent on tax-payer subsidy and the Government is using this to support the railway rich in a number of ways, including:

“The highest paid directors of a number of rail companies receiving annual increases in remuneration between 15 – 273%, much of this on the basis of financial results that have been funded by the Government.

“Railway bosses stand to gain up to £61,000 per annum from the Chancellor’s tax giveaway for the better off. These people stand to get more from your Government’s tax cut than most of my members will earn in a year and in many cases twice as much.”

What Network Rail are saying

Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts to compromise and find a breakthrough in talks, rail unions remain intent on continuing and co-ordinating their strike action.

“This serves only to ensure our staff forgo even more of their pay unnecessarily, as well as causing even more disruption for our passengers and further damaging the railway’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Passengers who want to travel this Saturday, and indeed next Wednesday and next Saturday, are asked only to do so if absolutely necessary. Those who must travel should expect disruption and make sure they check when their last train will depart.”

Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at Rail Delivery Group, said: “These strikes are unnecessary and damaging. They disrupt passengers’ plans, undermine struggling businesses, hit major events and harm the industry’s recovery.

“It is particularly disheartening that this weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of runners who have trained for months to take part in the iconic London Marathon.

“That will also punish the many charities, large and small, who depend on sponsorship money raised by such events to support the most vulnerable in our community.

“While we have done all we can to keep some services running, passengers should only travel by rail if absolutely necessary.”