Rail passengers are facing another day of disruption as a strike by train drivers halts virtually all national rail services in England.
Members of the Aslef union have started a 24-hour walkout in the long-running pay dispute, targeting the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
Drivers are on strike at all 16 train operators contracted to the Department for Transport, for the 13th time since the dispute started in June 2022.
The latest industrial action means no trains will run on most English routes, and cross-border services to Wales and Scotland will also be affected.
The strike is the first of two planned for this week, with a further 24-hour stoppage on Wednesday – the last day of the Tory conference – as well as an overtime ban running until Friday that will also affect parts of the network, making several operators reduce timetables and increasing the chances of further disruption.
Aslef said it was timing the strikes around the governing party’s conference in response to what it said were unjustified accusations by ministers that it had previously organised strikes to disrupt other events, including the Eurovision final in Liverpool in May.
Mick Whelan, the Aslef general secretary, said: “We’re targeting the people who keep misleading the public by saying we’re targeting other events.”
He said there had been no further talks with the government or rail firms since April. The union rejected an offer worth 8% over two years with strings attached earlier this year, describing it as risible.
The Rail Delivery Group, representing operators, said it was willing to continue negotiations with drivers, but only with an agreement to change working conditions.
Train operators have urged passengers to avoid travel on Saturday and to expect disruption for the rest of the week and plan ahead.
Only a handful of companies, including Great Western, Greater Anglia, Southern and LNER, will run any trains on Saturday. All of these will run a very limited service. Disruption is likely on Sunday morning after the stoppage, operators have said.
Several operators, including Chiltern and C2C, have reduced timetables this week to limit disruption from the Aslef overtime ban.
Passengers in the capital will be further affected by strikes this week in a separate dispute. RMT members on the London underground will strike on Wednesday and Friday, closing the tube and disrupting Elizabeth line and Overground services.