UK

Trains cancelled as drivers refuse to work extra shifts on day of England match

London North Eastern Railway, Greater Western Railway and Northern all cancelled services at short notice.

Rail services were severely reduced across large parts of Britain on Sunday as many train drivers and other on-board staff refused to work overtime shifts on the day of England’s opening Euro 2024 football match
Rail services were severely reduced across large parts of Britain on Sunday as many train drivers and other on-board staff refused to work overtime shifts on the day of England’s opening Euro 2024 football match (Danny Lawson/PA)

Rail services were severely reduced across large parts of Britain on Sunday as many train drivers and other on-board staff refused to work overtime shifts on the day of England’s opening Euro 2024 football match.

Northern, Great Western Railway (GWR) and London North Eastern Railway (LNER) all cancelled services scheduled to run on Sunday at short notice.

Many train drivers and other crew members do not have Sunday working included in their contracts, with numerous operators often relying on them volunteering to work extra paid shifts to run timetabled services on that day.

Unions must give 14 days’ notice of official strike action, but drivers can wait until just a handful of days in advance before confirming if they will work on a rest day.

Great Western Railway was among the operators affected
Great Western Railway was among the operators affected (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A rail industry source described Sunday as a “perfect storm” for poor staff availability due England’s match against Serbia combined with it being Father’s Day and also the forecast of warmer weather in many places.

Publicly-owned Northern issued a “do not travel” alert at 4.42pm on Sunday for its routes in north-west England for the rest of the day.

It said this was “due to the unavailability of train crew”, with many late-night trains cancelled and no replacement buses provided.

Members of train drivers’ union Aslef are taking action short of a strike at Northern between June 1 and July 27, affecting availability of staff.

GWR warned passengers to expect “short-notice cancellations and alterations” because of “a shortage of train crew”.

It axed at least 22 long-distance services between London Paddington and south-west England, mostly from 4pm, with England’s match kicking off at 8pm.

Sunday working is part of the usual roster for drivers employed by LNER, but the publicly-owned operator announced shortly before 6pm on Saturday it had cancelled 13 services on the following day – including eight between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh – due to “a shortage of train crew”.

Thameslink and West Midlands Trains also suffered disruption on Sunday due to train crew shortages.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has repeatedly called for an end to the rail industry relying on staff volunteering to work on rest days.

This has been a key issue in disputes between unions and train operators.