Train operators have urged the drivers’ union ASLEF to accept reforms, after the union announced two further strikes on railways in England on 30 September and 4 October, along with overtime bans on 29 September and also from 2 to 6 October. The union’s general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘While we regret having to take this action – we don’t want to lose a day’s pay, or disrupt passengers, as they try to travel by train – the government, and the employers, have forced us into this position. The Rail Delivery Group responded: ‘We want to give our staff a pay increase, but it has always been linked to implementing necessary, sensible reforms that would enhance services for our passengers. The union have rejected a fair and affordable offer without putting it to their members, which would take average driver base salaries for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 to nearly £65,000. We ask the ASLEF leadership and executive to recognise the very real financial challenge the industry is facing and work with us to deliver a more reliable and robust railway for the future.’
Labour remains cautious about HS2
The Labour Party has refused to promise that HS2 will be built in full if it wins the next General Election. The party’s campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden has spoken in favour of the high speed project, but he said the costs needed to be confirmed before the line could be included in the Labour manifesto. The government has already refused to confirm that Phase 2 to Crewe and Manchester is going ahead, while the section between Old Oak Common in west London and Euston station has already been paused for at least the next two years, amid uncertainty about the design of the station at Euston.
Train contract decisions due
The government needs to make decisions soon about the future of two train operating contracts which both expire next month. Avanti West Coast, owned by FirstGroup and Trenitalia, was extended for six months in the spring to allow more time to recover from operating problems, but runs out on 15 October. CrossCountry, which is run by Arriva, will expire on the same day. Talks at the Department for Transport with both operators are understood to be in progress.
Reopening plan cut back
Plans to restore the passenger service between Burton-on-Trent and Leicester are set to be cut back to Coalville, because there is not enough capacity for passenger trains on the single line onwards from there to Leicester. Passenger services were withdrawn in September 1964 but the line is still used for freight. However, redoubling between Coalville and Leicester to allow passenger trains to return is being described as a ‘significant infrastructure investment’. Network Rail’s programme director for the Restoring Your Railways project Mike Smith said: ‘Network Rail is working to further develop the Ivanhoe Line project. Currently, the project is not extending to Leicester. However, this reconnection could form part of a separate future project, should the initial Ivanhoe service prove to be a success.’ Stations on the line could be at Coalville, Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Castle Gresley, near Swadlincote.