ASLEF Ballot Results: Train Drivers to Strike

ASLEF members at eight train companies have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay
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ASLEF members at eight train companies have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay.

‘Strikes are always the last resort,’ said Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union. ‘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 driven by the government.

‘Many of our members – who were, you will remember, the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic – have not had a pay rise since 2019.

‘With inflation running at north of 10% that means those drivers have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years. We want an increase in line with the cost of living – we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.

‘It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row.  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.’

Being a train driver is a professional, technical, and safety-critical job. It takes a year to train a driver who can be responsible for the lives of up to 1,300 people on any journey.

Mick said: ‘We don’t think we’re special; we believe no worker in this country should put up with pay cuts year after year just because this government has allowed inflation to rise. Whatever happened to the Tory wish for good, well-paid, jobs? Obviously that’s only for the CEOs, not for the workers doing the job.

‘And, don’t forget, if a train driver doesn’t get a cost of living increase, it won’t mean that a nurse, or care worker, or cleaner will get one. This isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about setting one worker against another.

‘Wage rises aren’t exacerbating inflation, anyway. Excess profiteering is. The government isn’t asking companies to cut profits or dividend payments to help manage inflation. Wages are chasing prices, not putting them up.’

It’s not too late for the companies – or the government – to resolve this situation.

Mick said: ‘We’re happy to talk to anyone to do a deal and make sure Britain’s railways aren’t disrupted. The government is restricting what the operators can offer, but then refusing to get involved in negotiation. They seem to have no interest in finding a resolution.’

Train drivers were asked two questions: Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike? Are you prepared to take part in industrial action consisting of a strike? These are the votes for strike action:


Arriva Rail London:

Yes: 637 [98.9%]

No: 7 [1.1%]

Turnout: 92.5%


Chiltern Railways:

Yes: 217 [92.3%]

No: 18 [7.7%]

Turnout: 86.4%


Great Western:

Yes: 1,049 [86.1%]

No: 170 [13.9%]

Turnout: 86.3%



Yes: 323 [88.5%]

No: 42 [11.5%]

Turnout: 89.0%


Northern Trains:

Yes: 1,562 [95.2%]

No: 78 [4.8%]

Turnout: 88.5%



Yes: 741 [91.6%]

No: 68  [8.4%]

Turnout: 86.2 %


TransPennine Express:

Yes: 426 [94.2%]

No:  26 [5.8%]

Turnout: 84.8%


West Midlands Trains:

Yes: 636 [89.6%]

No: 74 [10.4%]

Turnout: 83.5%


NOTE to editors:

The claim that the money for a pay rise doesn’t exist is not borne out by the facts.

Before the pandemic, operators were paying out dividends of £262 million. Even in the year of covid they paid out £38 million. Now passenger numbers are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, bumper payouts are back on the companies’ agendas, too.

Between March 2020 and March 2021 train operators were paid management fees of more than £132 million.

The rolling stock companies – which buy the locomotives and carriages to lease to the operators – pocketed £3 billion in 2020/21 – a 5% increase on 2019/20. This figure has doubled since 2015/16. Eversholt, in 2020, paid a £46.5 million dividend. Porterbrook paid out £80 million.

In the list of highest earning public sector officials (senior civil servants and senior officials in departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies), 9 out of the top 10 are from the transport industry and 8 of the 10 are in rail. Top of the list is Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, who earns £620,000. Next is Andrew Haines, CEO of Network Rail, on £585,000.

Pay deals this year:

We have successfully concluded pay deals this year with DB Cargo; Eurostar; Freightliner Heavy Haul; Freightliner Intermodal; GB Railfreight; Merseyrail; MTR Elizabeth line; ScotRail, and PRE Metro Operations.

We also have multi-year deals already in place with other companies.

But we have balloted for industrial action over pay at those companies which have proved reluctant, so far, to offer drivers a fair pay rise. Ballots closed today [Monday 11 July] at Arriva Rail London; Chiltern Railways; Great Western; LNER; Northern Trains; Southeastern; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

And ballots close on Wednesday 27 July at Avanti West Coast; CrossCountry; and Direct Rail Services.


For further information please contact:

Keith Richmond

Media & Communications


77 St John Street




Tel: 020 7324 2407

Mob: 07977 498794