Arriva Trains Wales strike: Talks held as deadline looms

Arriva Trains Wales train in Cardiff Image copyright Getty Images

Arriva Trains Wales and the unions involved in a planned strike which will affect around 60,000 people and see 1,000 services cancelled are holding last-minute talks.

All Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) services in Wales and parts of England will be cancelled for 48 hours as Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Aslef union members walk out from midnight.

The unions confirmed they were meeting the company on Wednesday afternoon.

They want improved pay and conditions.

Conservative shadow transport minister William Graham AM said there was the potential for the strike to cause "significant chaos" for rail users.

The unions argue they are fighting to improve working practices for their drivers, describing conditions for them as "almost Dickensian" in some aspects.

They also say drivers in Wales are paid less than in other parts of the country and want parity with counterparts over the border.

All Arriva Trains Wales services are cancelled, with no replacement bus services. Great Western Train services into south Wales will run as normal, as will Virgin Trains across north Wales to Holyhead. Cross Country services between Cardiff and Nottingham and Derby will also run.

People travelling to the Wales v Netherlands football international at Cardiff City stadium on Friday evening, which kicks off at 19.45 GMT, nearly four hours before the action is scheduled to end, could be affected.

'No alternative'

On Wednesday morning, speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Aslef representative Andy Hudd said they would still be willing to meet the company, but added: "They have got to be meaningful negotiations.

"We have delayed putting on strikes for over three months, and the negotiations have been tough. We have moved an awful long way to arriving at a solution."

The RMT had also said in a statement talks had failed and the strike would go ahead as planned.

General secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT officials have made every effort to resolve this dispute through negotiation, even postponing previous action in good faith so that management could return to the table with an improved offer.

"They have failed to do that and, therefore, we have been left with no alternative other than to regretfully press ahead with the strike action tomorrow."

Gareth Thomas, director of human resources at ATW, told BBC Wales they had been in talks since June and had agreed pay with other grades of workers in the company.

"We are talking about some detailed terms and conditions now where we can't get some agreement with our drivers' union on the minutiae issues which is slightly frustrating because as far as we're concerned the talks are still ongoing, so calling the action this early is a bit of a surprise for us," he said.

The Welsh government said it was being kept updated on the dispute but it was a matter for the train operator to resolve.

Mr Graham said he was also concerned about the impact on travel to the Wales v Netherlands football international at Cardiff City stadium on Friday evening.

"At a time when rail services during the Rugby World Cup are already under the spotlight, the last thing Wales needs is more severe disruption, particularly during another high profile sports event," he added.

David Sidebottom, passenger director at travel watchdog Transport Focus, said rail users in Wales would be disappointed by the lack of an agreement between ATW and the unions.

"This means uncertainty for passengers, so it is crucial that all parties get back around the table and resolve this matter without bringing the railway to a standstill.

"It is passengers who suffer most in the event of strikes," he added.

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