After widespread strike action on railways throughout the country in June, train drivers have voted to stage more industrial action which could bring lines in Hertfordshire to a halt.

ASLEF trade union members who drive trains at eight companies have voted to strike amid a pay dispute - with union general secretary telling firms it's "not too late" to find a resolution.

The Department for Transport, which is led by Grant Shapps, Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, said strike threats are "disappointing" given that train drivers earn around £60,000 on average, more than the UK median salary.

%image(14513523, type="article-full", alt="Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP")

But Mick Whelan, ASLEF general secretary, said rail companies are making "handsome profits" with no uplift for railway staff.

Mr Whelan 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."

Mr Whelan said train drivers' wages have not increased in line with inflation for three years.

%image(14513524, type="article-full", alt="Mick Whelan, ALSEF trade union general secretary, pictured here in 2016")

Four out of the eight companies where strike action is set to take place run trains in Hertfordshire.

These are:

  • Arriva Rail London (which runs London Overground trains out of Watford Junction and Cheshunt)
  • Chiltern Railways
  • LNER
  • West Midlands Trains (which runs London Northwestern Railway trains through Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey)

The other four firms where a strike is taking place are:

  • Great Western Railway
  • Northern Trains
  • Southeastern
  • TransPennine Express

%image(14513526, type="article-full", alt="LNER drivers who run trains through Stevenage voted to strike if a pay dispute is not resolved")

%image(14513527, type="article-full", alt="Chiltern Railways train drivers have voted to strike, which could disrupt commuters in London, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and the Midlands")

Ballots close on Wednesday, July 27 in a vote on strike action at Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry and freight firm Direct Rail Services.

According to ASLEF, pay negotiations in 2022 were successful at nine companies. These include Eurostar, MTR Elizabeth line and Merseyrail in Liverpool.

%image(14513528, type="article-full", alt="According to ASLEF, a 2022 pay dispute was resolved at Eurostar")

No dates have been confirmed for strike action.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, said it wants trade union leaders to engage with managers to find "long-term" reforms.

A spokesperson said: "We want to see rail unions engage with train operators over the reforms needed to secure a bright long-term future for the industry, including working with ASLEF to deliver the more punctual, reliable services we know passengers care about.

"Instead of causing further disruption to passengers and businesses, we urge the ASLEF leadership to continue talks."

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Train drivers earn, on average, just under £60,000 per year, more than twice the UK median salary and significantly more than the very workers who will be most impacted by these strikes."

The previous strike action between June 21 and June 25 affected almost all lines in Hertfordshire, when some signalling, station and other railway staff staged a walkout over pay and job security.

%image(14513529, type="article-full", alt="A spokesperson for the Department for Transport, which is led by Grant Shapps MP, said the train drivers' vote in favour of strike action was "disappointing"")

%image(14513531, type="article-full", alt="An official picket during the June 22 RMT strike")

This was organised by RMT rather than ASLEF, where some members earn significantly less than £60,000.

According to the government's National Careers Service, a train station worker salary typically ranges from £17,500 - below the "real living wage" - to £27,000 per annum.

During June's strike action, some members of the Welwyn Hatfield Labour Party joined an RMT demonstration at Hatfield station.

%image(14513532, type="article-full", alt="Stevenage and District Trades Union Congress members in Hatfield for a rail strike demonstration in June 22")

%image(14513533, type="article-full", alt="Councillor Max Holloway, a Labour councillor in Welwyn Hatfield, speaks at an RMT trade union rally in June 2022")

Councillor Max Holloway, from Howlands in Welwyn Garden City, said at the time: "During the pandemic, Grant Shapps was quick to call transport workers heroes - now when they come to him for help with the cost of living crisis he publicly demonises them and refuses to meet.

"He needs to stop talking to the media and start talking with trade union officials, listen to the workers, and get the trains moving again."