As Christmas approaches, so does a busy (and so potentially profitable) time for railway services. However, a more threatening event than the festive season is also upcoming for these companies: train strikes.


What is happening? The ASLEF (the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) union, consisting of over 21,000 members working for railway companies, has recently announced that its members in 16 train companies will be on strike between the 2nd and 8th of December around the country. This means that, where members are on strike, rail services will be cancelled. On top of this, overtime bans will be taking place between the 1st and 9th days of the month, meaning that strikers will refuse to work extra hours.


Why is it happening? The 2022-23 UK railway strikes began on the 21st of June 2022, and are the largest example of industrial action in the UK in over 30 years. ASLEF is striking in order to improve members’ wages, which have not increased since 2019 despite inflation and a cost of living crisis. Its members were offered a 4% pay rise in 2022 and another 4% for 2023, but the union declined the offer; it was reported that ASLEF boss Mick Whelan referred to the pay offer as ‘risible’.


What could the impacts be? In a post-COVID world, many more individuals can, at least sometimes, work from home and therefore not feel the effects of a railway strike as much as they may have in the past. However those required to travel for work suffer, be it long, difficult journeys or losing money from their inability to go to work. These are often lower-income workers such as carers and nurses. Not only will their lives be disrupted, but their inability to get to work can have knock-on effects, some being as drastic as cancelled operations. Furthermore, patients may be unable to attend appointments (costing money and having a potentially adverse impact on health) or students’ education may be disrupted if they cannot travel to school easily. As well as individuals, businesses could be presented with challenges by the strikes. Interruption of services will likely lead to a reduction in revenue for train companies, and others may lose out on money from customers whose travel was made difficult, such as restaurants and cafés.


The strikes, assuming they are not called off, could pose serious challenges to many, however it can also be argued that the strikers deserve their requested pay rise. With no ‘correct’ side made obvious, arguments will likely continue and the public may be faced with yet more strikes in the future.