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Rail strikes: Passengers warned of disruption this weekend as ASLEF walkouts begin | UK News

ASLEF’s train drivers are staging a series of strikes this weekend, marking the start of major disruption over the next week.

Union members at East Midlands Railway and LNER will walk out on Saturday, followed by drivers on four other lines on Sunday.

A total of 15 train operating companies will be affected by strike action between today and Friday 8 December after ASLEF members voted to continue taking industrial action for the next six months.

The strike days are amplified by a union-wide overtime ban which started on Friday and will run until Saturday 9 December.

Full list of dates in December 2023 and rail lines affected

East Midlands Railway said it will not operate services on any of its routes on Saturday, while the overtime ban may cause some late notice cancellations and changes to train times.

Passengers are advised to check before travelling.

LNER is running a reduced timetable between Edinburgh and London and Leeds and London on Saturday.

There will also be no trains to or from London King’s Cross on Sunday due to planned engineering work.

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ASLEF boss: We have no choice

An LNER statement said bus replacements would be in place on Sunday but warned they would have “extremely limited availability and will take considerably longer [approximately 120 minutes].”

Strikes on Sunday will affect Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern Thameslink and West Midlands Trains, while more strikes against other operators will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week.

They come days after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union voted overwhelmingly to accept a deal to end their long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies, has criticised ASLEF for not following RMT’s approach and putting the latest pay offer to its members, which it says would take average driver salaries from £60,000 to nearly £65,000.

File photo dated 03/06/2023 of members of the Aslef union on a picket line near to Leeds train station. Rail passengers are being warned to expect disruption over the next week because of strikes and an overtime ban by train drivers in their long-running dispute over pay. Members of Aslef at 16 train operating companies will refuse to work overtime from Friday until December 9 and will stage a series of strikes between December 2 and 8. Issue date: Friday December 1, 2023.
Image:
An ASLEF picket line in Leeds

ASLEF’s general secretary Mick Whelan said he has not had any talks with employers since April and has not met Transport Secretary Mark Harper since last December.

“We are in this for the long haul,” he said.

“Our members, who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now, are determined that the train companies and the Tory government that stands behind them do the right thing.

“The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out.

“The bosses at the train companies – as well as Tory MPs and government ministers – have had increases in pay. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less.

“These are key workers who kept the country moving throughout the pandemic. They are simply asking for a fair and decent deal.”

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An RDG spokesperson said: “This unnecessary and avoidable industry action called by the ASLEF leadership has been targeted to disrupt customers and businesses ahead of the vital festive period.

“It will also inflict further damage on an industry that is receiving up to an additional £175m a month in taxpayer cash to keep services running, following the COVID downturn.”

Rail minister Huw Merriman said: “Following RMT members voting to overwhelmingly accept the train operators’ pay offer, ASLEF is now not just the only rail union still striking but the only union not to even put an offer to its members.

“They are instead choosing to cause more misery for passengers and the hospitality sector this festive period.”

“The fair and reasonable offer that’s long been on the table would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 for a 35-hour, four-day week,” Mr Merriman added.

“ASLEF’s leadership should follow in the footsteps of all the other rail unions by doing the right thing and giving their members a say on that offer.”

Passengers who still intend to travel on days affected by strikes and overtime bans have been encouraged to check the National Rail’s journey planner before setting off.

Deepfake audio of Sadiq Khan suggesting Remembrance weekend ‘should be held next week instead’ under police investigation | UK News

Digitally generated audio of Sadiq Khan seemingly calling for Armistice Day to be delayed is being investigated by police.

Clips have been circulating on social media, using the London mayor’s voice and mannerisms, where he can be heard playing down the importance of Remembrance weekend commemorations.

In one clip, a voice similar to Mr Khan can be heard saying: “I don’t give a flying s*** about the Remembrance weekend.”

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The fake recording continues to say: “What’s important and paramount is the one million-man Palestinian march takes place on Saturday.”

It’s a reference to the Million March in 1965 – a civil rights protest in Washington DC attended overwhelmingly by people of colour.

A large pro-Palestinian demonstration in London calling for a ceasefire in Gaza has been planned for Saturday, with more than 2,000 police officers drafted in to help manage the event.

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However, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has criticised the Metropolitan Police over its decision to allow the march go ahead.

Another clip using Mr Khan’s voice says: “I know we have Armistice Day on Saturday but why should Londoners cancel the Palestinian march on Saturday? Why don’t they have Remembrance weekend next weekend? What’s happening in Gaza is much bigger than this weekend and it’s current.”

The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the fake clips.

“We can confirm that we have been made aware of a video featuring artificial audio of the mayor, and that this is with specialist officers for assessment,” the force said in a statement.

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Why are people marching in London?

Read more:
More than 1,000 officers drafted in to help Met Police amid pressure to prevent Remembrance disruption
‘Disrespectful’ pro-Palestine march will go ahead on Armistice Day, PM says

Writing on social media, Mr Khan wrote: “While I hosted an interfaith Remembrance event with our armed forces at City Hall: the far-right were sharing deepfake audio about me.

“They may have new means, but their ends are the same – to divide our diverse communities. We must stand together – it’s what London does best.”

The mayor also used social media to point people to an article written in the Evening Standard about the importance of events this weekend.

In it, he writes: “It’s right that the organisers have said they will not protest near the Cenotaph. I urge everyone attending to co-operate with police and make sure to be respectful on Armistice Day.”

People’s comments on the faked audio ask if it is real or made with artificial intelligence – an indication of how accurate the technology used to make these kind of clips is.

It comes after a deepfake clip of Mr Khan’s party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was circulated as Labour’s annual conference got under way in October, heightening fears about the potential impact of the technology on democracy.

Heathrow strikes on almost every weekend over summer | Business News

Security staff at Heathrow Airport have announced an escalation of strike action, with walkouts to take place nearly every weekend from mid-June to the end of August.

Members of Unite are embroiled in a long-running dispute over pay which led to industrial action last month and Easter.

From 24 June, 31 days of strikes will take place by more than 2,000 security staff. Officers from Heathrow terminal 3 are joining the industrial action for the first time in the coming dates.

The workers will be on strike on:

• June 24, 25, 28, 29 and 30

• July 14-16, 21-24, and 28-31

• August 4-7, 11-14, 18-20 and 24-27

Heathrow said similar strikes in recent weeks, by campus security and staff in terminal five, have not been disruptive.

“Unite has already tried and failed to disrupt the airport with unnecessary strikes on some of our busiest days and we continue to build our plans to protect journeys during any future action,” a spokesperson for the airport said.

Passengers can rest assured that we will do everything we can to minimise strike disruption so they can enjoy their hard-earned summer holidays.”

During the periods of industrial action – by roughly 1,400 security staff – passengers were only able to bring two carry-on items through security.

The union said the dispute could escalate further in the coming weeks.

It said Heathrow security officers are paid less than others at major airports in London and the south east. The officers, Unite said, were the highest paid before the COVID-19 pandemic but are now paid between £5,000 and £6,000 less a year than counterparts at Stansted and Gatwick airports.

Heathrow says this is untrue and that Unite is not using like for like comparisons with airports that require anti-social work hours and to be on shift seven days a week.

The airport also says it was one of the only organisations during the pandemic not to make any frontline redundancies and a very small number of contracts were “aligned with current market rates”.

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Onay Kasab from Unite the Union says that changes to strike action in the NHS

But Unite’s general secretary says Heathrow has “its priorities all wrong”.

“This is an incredibly wealthy company, which this summer is anticipating bumper profits and an executive pay bonanza,” Sharon Graham said.

“It’s also expected to pay out huge dividends to shareholders, yet its workers can barely make ends meet and are paid far less than workers at other airports.”

Bank holiday weekend could see hottest day of the year so far with sunny weather for ‘vast majority’ of UK | UK News

Temperatures could reach a high of 24C this bank holiday weekend making it the hottest of the year so far with dry and sunny weather for many.

High pressure, which has brought fine conditions across the UK over the last few days, is forecast to continue through the weekend and into next week.

The highest temperature of 2023 was recorded in Cardiff on Monday when it hit 23.4C.

UK weather: The latest Sky News forecast

Forecaster Simon Partridge said it could get even warmer over the weekend with highs of 24C possible in southeast Wales and around the Bristol Channel on Saturday and Sunday.

Other parts of the UK could see temperatures reaching the high teens and early 20s.

Mr Partidge said: “We’re slowly getting there. Hints of summer.

“For a bank holiday weekend it’s pretty rare to be that dry and sunny, so we’re not doing too bad.”

The dry and bright weather is likely to continue for most with little rain expected throughout next week.

Met Office chief forecaster Paul Gundersen said: “The jet stream sitting to the north of the UK is holding unsettled weather systems at bay and allowing high pressure to dominate bringing fine weather to the vast majority of the UK.

“The current position of the high-pressure means we will see a westerly air flow over the UK, a cooler direction than if air was being brought up from the south, and areas such as Spain or Africa.

“Therefore, we are not likely to reach heatwave conditions, but temperatures will still be warm reaching the low 20s for many, particularly in the South West and southern Wales.”

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UK to be hotter than Malaga

Looking ahead, Met Office deputy chief forecaster Steven Keates, said: “Next week is half term week for much of the country and there is a strong signal the high pressure will continue to dominate our weather.

“Its exact position over the UK will dictate the temperature, wind direction and weather patterns, however, indications are that the dry, bright weather is likely to continue for most with little in the way of rain throughout next week.”

Meanwhile, travel groups are warning of a busy time on the roads for the long weekend and half term break.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “We fully expect families to make the most of the largely fine weather over the coming days which is why we’re forecasting the busiest late May bank holiday since before the pandemic.

“Into next week and half term for many parts of the UK, day trips will also be a big feature with popular routes to the coasts and countryside becoming busy.

“Getting away early in the morning or delaying trips until the evening are the best way to avoid the inevitable delays.”

Long queues loom for drivers in ‘frantic’ Friday getaway before Christmas weekend | UK News

Drivers have been warned to expect long queues as millions take to the roads ahead of the Christmas weekend.

The AA has said Friday will be the busiest day on the roads this week with an estimated 16.9 million journeys being made across the UK.

A further 16.6 million are expected to be made on Christmas Eve.

Congestion will be further compounded thanks to a strike by thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail, causing train services to finish at around 3pm on Saturday.

Those traveling by air have also been warned to prepare for delays as Border Force workers are also set to strike on Friday.

According to the RAC the roads will be busiest between 10am and 7pm on Friday, the last working day before Christmas.

Roads likely to be most affected congestion include the M25, the M60 near Manchester, the M6 in northwest England and the M40 in Oxfordshire.

Transport analytics company Inrix expects journey times to be around 14% longer compared to the same period last year.

National Highways said almost 98% of England’s motorways and major A-roads will be fully open until the end of 2 January due to it completing and lifting roadworks.

AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens said: “We are advising those heading out in their cars to be prepared for some congestion, especially on popular routes heading out of London.

“The rail strikes have convinced more people to travel by car this year, and while hundreds of miles of roadworks have been removed to ease the pain, it might not be enough to keep the queues away.”

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said there will be “two frantic days of travelling just before Christmas”.

Inrix transportation analyst Bob Pishue said: “With pre-pandemic levels of travellers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays – especially in and around major cities.”

UK weather: Thousands face fourth day without power in Shetland in icy conditions – with warnings disruption could last into weekend | UK News

Thousands of people in Shetland are facing a fourth day without power as engineers battle to restore supplies amid the threat of further snowfall and freezing temperatures.

Some 2,400 homes remain without power in Voe, Brae, Yell and the West Mainland – with engineers warning that power may not be restored to some properties until the weekend.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution said it was continuing to “battle prolonged severe weather conditions”.

A team of 125 people is carrying out repairs to restore power, with SSEN saying “this remains likely to extend to the end of this week”.

“Depending on weather conditions and travel availability, it is possible this could extend into the weekend for some properties,” it added.

Icy conditions are forecast to continue over the next 24 hours, with frequent rain, sleet, hail and snow showers.

The Met Office has extended a yellow warning for snow and ice covering northern Scotland and north-east England until 11.59pm on Thursday.

Rail passengers facing more disruption as train drivers announce strike on busy weekend | UK News

Rail passengers are facing a fresh wave of disruption as train drivers from several companies have announced another strike over a long-running dispute about pay and working conditions.

The 24-hour walkout on Saturday 13 August will coincide with a busy weekend of football, with Premier League games in Manchester, London, Birmingham and Brighton likely to be affected.

Organised by members of the Aslef union, the strike will affect services run by Arriva Rail London, Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Timetables are due to be published on 9 August, but passengers are being advised to follow the latest travel advice, check before they set off and allow extra time for their journey.

While companies not involved in the strike will continue running trains, these are expected to be busier than normal.

The industrial action will also affect services running on the morning of Sunday 14 August, with those planning to travel told to consider starting their journey later in the day.

There have been several strikes held so far this year, with unions calling for a pay increase due to the rising cost of living and raising concerns around job security and working conditions.

Earlier this summer, an RMT walkout became the largest British rail strike in 30 years.

In recent weeks, extensive talks have been held over the issues, but the dispute remains unsolved.

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Stationary trains at London stations

‘We must modernise and adapt’

Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, Steve Montgomery, said: “We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has, for the second time in as many weeks, decided to impose yet more uncertainty for passengers and businesses by disrupting passengers’ weekend plans.

“Like any service or business, things do not just stand still, and we must move with the times. We want to give our people a pay rise, as we know everyone is feeling the pinch due to the cost of living rises.”

He added that further strikes will see people “out of pocket” and urged leaders of Aslef to come forward and reach a deal that is “fair to staff and taxpayers”.

“I will reiterate what I’ve previously said – I am ready and willing to talk to the leadership of Aslef today, tomorrow or indeed any time next week,” Mr Montgomery said.

“They should call off next week’s action and talk to us instead. What our passengers and our staff expect is for us to talk and work out a way through this.”

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Can people get a refund?

Passengers with advance, off-peak or anytime tickets affected by the strike can use their ticket either on the day before the date it was intended to be used, or up until 16 August.

They can also change their tickets to travel on an alternate date.

If their train is cancelled or rescheduled, they are able to get a refund.

Read more:
What you need to know as rail strikes continue
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Are there any more strikes planned?

Two further days of strikes have already been announced, with members of the RMT at Network Rail and 14 train operators planning to walk out on 18 and 20 August.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has also agreed to strike at seven train operating companies on the same days.

This will affect services run by Avanti West Coast, c2c, East Midlands Railway, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway, LNER, and Southeastern.

London Underground workers are also set to strike on 19 August.

‘Major’ cyberattack may mean it takes longer for NHS 111 calls to be answered this weekend | UK News

People seeking medical help via the NHS 111 service are being warned there could be delays after a cyberattack led to a “major” computer system outage.

The security issue was identified at 7am on Thursday morning, and it has affected the system used to dispatch ambulances, book out-of-hours appointments and issue emergency prescriptions.

There are fears that these technical difficulties may not be fully resolved until next week.

The Welsh Ambulance Service says the outage is significant and far-reaching – and affects all four nations in the UK.

Although it has “developed and deployed plans so services can continue to operate”, this weekend is set to be busier than usual for 111 in Wales – and it may take longer for calls to be answered.

NHS England says 111 services are still available and there is “currently minimal disruption”, with “tried-and-tested contingency plans in place”.

A Scottish government spokesman said it is aware of reported disruption to a system used by one of NHS Scotland’s suppliers – adding that it’s working with other health boards and the National Cyber Security Centre “to fully understand potential impact”.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health is also working to keep disruption to a minimum, and steps have been taken to avoid a risk of other critical systems and services being hit.

Advanced, the software and services provider affected by the cyberattack, said the issue was contained to “a small number of servers” representing 2% of its health and care infrastructure.

Chief operating officer Simon Short added: “We continue to work with the NHS and health and care bodies as well as our technology and security partners, focused on recovery of all systems over the weekend and during the early part of next week.”

Rail strikes and traffic warnings deal double blow to summer getaways and weekend plans | UK News

Summer getaways and weekend plans could be severely disrupted today during a fresh round of rail strikes – with an “amber traffic warning” also in force on the roads.

The Aslef union says train drivers at seven rail companies are staging a 24-hour walkout in a dispute over pay, and there are fears millions of passengers could be disrupted.

Elsewhere, the AA is warning motorists there could be severe congestion on major routes between 11am and 3pm today – with the South of England set to be particularly vulnerable.

A number of factors are to blame – including the rail strikes, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and the start of the Football League season in England.

Drivers are being told to prepare for stop-start traffic as the weekend gets underway, and the AA’s head of road policy Jack Cousens says the congestion will be a frustration for many.

He added: “As well as taking food and water, some form of entertainment for younger passengers might just hold off a sigh and mutterings of ‘I’m bored!’ for a while.”

Roads into the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone weren’t affected by the traffic yesterday, but National Highways says this weekend is “likely to be extremely busy”.

The UK and France have now put plans in place to prevent border chaos and “maximise passenger flows”, and weekly meetings will aim to avoid additional disruption on both sides of the Channel.

Some 140,000 passengers are expected to pass through the Port of Dover between Thursday and Sunday this week, as well as 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles.

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‘We need to remove power of militant unions’

‘More uncertainty and disruption’

The Rail Delivery Group has accused the Aslef union of timing its industrial action to coincide with major sporting events.

Today’s strike is affecting Arriva Rail London, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Rail Delivery Group chairman Steve Montgomery said: “We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has decided to impose yet more uncertainty and disruption for passengers and businesses in a week which has already seen a strike by the RMT.”

Passengers on affected routes are urged to plan ahead and check before they travel – and if trains are cancelled, travellers can change their ticket, get a refund, or use their ticket until Tuesday.

Further strikes are planned next month in the deadlocked row over pay, jobs and conditions – with Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan insisting industrial action is “always the last resort”.

He added: “We don’t want to inconvenience passengers, our friends and families use public transport too, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike – but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the Tory government.”

Mr Whelan claimed that many Aslef members have not had a pay rise in three years – and with inflation “running at north of 10%”, these drivers have seen their pay fall in real terms.

“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row,” he said. “Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain’s railways, with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers, and train drivers don’t want to work longer for less.”