Strike action today (27 July) saw 40,000 employees from over 14 train companies walk out in protest against working conditions, pay rises and job security.
With more strikes expected to hit over the summer, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has accused unions of wanting to “cause misery to travelling public”.
Whilst RMT Union Leader Mick Lynch has said “ that this dispute will not simply vanish”.
The strikes are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, so why exactly are train workers striking? And how much does your average train driver earn?
Here is everything you need to know.
When are the strikes?
Four train strikes will take place this summer, causing widespread travel chaos.
The first one, which took place today (27 July) saw 40,000 employees from over 14 train companies walk out.
On 30 July, employees from the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) will strike, with two further RMT walk outs planned for the 18th and 20th August.
The continued strike action is expected to have a major impact on services during the summer holiday period.
On those days, fewer than one in five train services is expected to run, with limited services between the hours of 7am and 7pm, and only on main routes.
Why are they striking?
The RMT union claims that railway workers who worked through the pandemic are suffering job losses, a pay freeze and attacks on employment standards.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have been treated appallingly and, despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry, with the support of the Government, has failed to take their concerns seriously.
“We have a cost of living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1% and rising.
“Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.”
How much does a train driver earn?
According to the Government’s National Careers Service, trainee salaries start around £24,000 a year, increasing to as much as £60,000 annually for an experienced driver.
Drivers work 35 to 40 hours per week on average, including evening and weekend shifts, and free or discounted travel is one of the perks.
According to recruitment firm Reed, these are the average salaries for a train driver working in these companies:
- London North Eastern Railway (LNER) – £30,000 to £70,000
- Transport for London (TfL) – £57,217 to £61,620
- Scotrail – £50,659 to £56,245
- Northern Rail – £40,104 to £57,546
- East Midlands Railway – £54,403 to £61,467
- Great Western Railway – £49,807 to £67,304
- Merseyrail – £50,572 to £55,415
- Southeastern Railway – £37,261 to £58,503
Train conductors are lower paid and typically work longer weeks; they can earn between £23,000 and £36,000, and can work average weeks of 43 - 45 hours.
Train station employees who deal with passengers and carry out duties in stations and on platforms can expect to earn between £17,500 and £27,000.
Rail track maintenance workers who inspect and repair railway tracks, bridges, tunnels, and viaducts have it the worst, earning between £16,500 and £34,000 for 45+ hour weeks.
Could the strikes be stopped?
Talks to prevent the strikes have broken down, with the RMT rejecting Network Rail’s pay proposals, which fell below the rate of inflation.
In a statement Lynch said: “The rail industry and the Government need to understand that this dispute will not simply vanish.
“They need to get serious about providing an offer on pay which helps deal with the cost-of-living crisis, job security for our members and provides good conditions at work.
“Recent proposals from Network Rail fell well short on pay and on safety around maintenance work. And the train operating companies have not even made us a pay offer in recent negotiations.
“We remain open for talks, but we will continue our campaign until we reach a negotiated settlement.”
The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has called out the strikes, stating that the government had offered an 8% pay rise, that was rejected.
He accused union leaders of wanting to “cause misery to travelling public”
On the back of the planned strike action the government has put measures in place to require a minimum service requirement for the train industry, however, the proposals could take time to become effective.