The head of the UK’s main train drivers’ union said on Wednesday its members were “in this for a long time” as they held the first of two days of strike action this week that is likely to bring much of the main rail network to a standstill. from England.

Mick Whelan of Aslef, was speaking as its members in 14 train operators refused to work on Wednesday. The action halted all trains at various operators including Avanti West Coast, the passenger operator on the West Coast main line from London to Glasgow, and at Govia Thameslink, operator of the Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services. .

Other affected operators, including the LNER operation on the East Coast Main Line and the Great Western Railway, were running significantly reduced services. South Western Railway is the only passenger operator to have a Department of Transportation franchise that was largely unaffected.

Drivers will strike again on Saturday, when the walkout disrupts travel to the FA Cup final in London between Manchester City and Manchester United. A separate union, the RMT, which represents other rail workers including train managers and station staff, will go on strike on Friday, in a walkout that is expected to result in fewer cancellations.

Whelan told the BBC his union had so far made “zero” progress in talks with the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail companies, or the Department for Transport to resolve the pay dispute. Aslef is demanding a significantly higher wage deal than the offer of 4 percent for the 2022-23 fiscal year and another 4 percent for 2023-24 that employers have put forward. Drivers would receive any agreed wage increase for 2022 as a lump sum.

Whelan insisted that “its members’ enthusiasm for action did not wane.”

“We are determined to get a resolution and stay with this for the long haul,” Whelan said.

Whelan has said Aslef members have not had a pay rise since 2019 and that the government, which controls the finances of the rail industry, is preventing a deal.

The RDG acknowledged that the strikes would cause “disappointment and frustration” to tens of thousands of people. The group has forecast that 40 percent of train services will be able to run on Aslef strike days and 50 percent during the RMT strike on Friday.

“We understand the impact of these attacks on both individuals and businesses, and we can only apologize for this harmful and unnecessary disruption,” the RDG said.

The DfT said union leaders had coordinated strikes to disrupt passengers in a period that would cover not only the FA Cup final but also the Derby horse race at Epsom, which is also on Saturday.

“The government has provided a fair and reasonable wage offer,” the DfT said. “Now union leaders need to do the right thing and get this across to their members.”

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