Strike action at short notice has seen one train operator cut its timetables and extensive delays are expected from this weekend.
Avanti West Coast, which operates services on the West Coast Main Line between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, accused train drivers’ union Aslef of carrying out ‘unofficial strike action’ from Saturday.
Services between London Euston and Manchester are expected to be hardest hit, with frequencies reduced from three trains an hour to just one from Sunday.
The company has also paused the sale of train tickets for travel from Sunday until September 11 while it establishes a new timetable.
Tickets are expected to be released weekly on a rolling basis from the end of this week.
Avanti chief executive Phil Whittingham wrote in a letter to the rail industry that the ‘current industrial relations climate’ has resulted in ‘severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels as well as unofficial strike action by Aslef members’.
As a result, a limited timetable will be in place ‘for now’.
“The reduced timetable is being introduced to ensure a reliable service so our customers can travel with greater safety,” he added.
‘This decision was not taken lightly and we apologize for the huge frustration and inconvenience this will cause.’
He explained that drivers often volunteer to work on their rest days for extra pay – but this has suddenly reduced massively, disrupting services. He added that more than 250 new drivers are currently being recruited and trained.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘They are lying. Avanti does not employ enough drivers to run the services they have promised to run. There is no unofficial action. We will strike on August 13.
‘They are a cheap skate company that won’t train enough drivers and rely on rest days. The company is selling its customers short.
“It is a time of year when many people take a holiday. Drivers don’t have to work overtime and don’t want to volunteer to work on glorious summer days.’
People who have already bought tickets for canceled trains can travel earlier or later or claim a full refund.
Sir. Whittingham called on rail unions to “engage in meaningful negotiations on industrial reform around modernizing working methods and developing a railway fit for the 21st century”.
Drivers at eight other train companies will also strike on Saturday, including CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
Transport for London has warned people traveling in the capital on Saturday that there will be no service on the London Overground or Night Overground, with delays potentially continuing into Sunday morning.
Around 40,000 workers from the RMT union are also set to walk out again on Thursday August 18 and Saturday August 20 due to a dispute with Network Rail and several train companies, with a tube strike also earmarked for the day in between.
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