Explained: Rail strikes set to cause chaos in football travel

Football fans are facing travel chaos this weekend, with a nationwide railway strike affecting travel for thousands of supporters.

The one-day strike will impact nine rail companies, with just one Premier League game unaffected.

Here, Athleticism explains what is happening and what it means…


What is happening?

On Saturday August 13, train drivers belonging to ASLEF – the union which represents 96% of train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales – will stage a 24-hour strike at nine railway companies in Britain .

According to ASLEF, the strike comes after the rail companies “failed to make a wage offer to help our members with the cost of private living”.

Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway, LNER, Greater Anglia, London Overground, Southeastern, Hull Trains and West Midlands Trains.

The strikes are likely to cause ricochet disruption on Sunday August 14, with all but West Midlands Trains and South Eastern having reduced timetables or partial services.

The following week will also see commuters disrupted in their travels after the Railway, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has announced a strike between August 18 and August 20 due to what the RMT described as a “dispute over job security, wages and working conditions”.

These strikes will drive out over 40,000 workers from Network Rail and 14 rail operating companies.

How will the games be impacted?

Manchester United fans will have to leave Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off early against Brentford if they want to catch the last train home.

The final service from London to Manchester, which would take a regular duration of around three hours, is due to leave Kings Cross St Pancras at 8.02pm. It’s around 40 minutes past full time, but the 8 mile distance from Gtech Community Stadium to the station takes around 50 minutes by car or public transport – nearby Kew Bridge is on the London Overground and therefore closed – and it would take almost three hours of walking.

Leeds and Newcastle United supporters could face an overnight journey on public transport that could take upwards of 16 hours.

For Newcastle supporters, a train leaves Falmer – a station next to the Amex Stadium – around half an hour after the final whistle on Saturday. It takes almost five and a half hours and includes four changes, arriving in Newcastle at 10.45pm.

This service is already sold out – as is a 17 hour journey which leaves Falmer at 5.50pm and requires fans to spend 12 hours overnight in Doncaster before finally returning to Newcastle at 11am on Sunday morning. A long journey which arrives an hour earlier had tickets available on Friday lunchtime, but for a price of £177.

Leeds United fans face a five-hour journey with up to four changes to reach Southampton and a similar trip on the way back.

But they will need to move quickly to make a train before the 6pm service – this currently costs £158 and takes over 15 hours.

Bournemouth fans face a six-hour, three-change journey en route to their away game against Manchester City. Standard tickets for the service that departs before 8am have sold out, meaning supporters wishing to use the network would have to pay £223 for a first class ticket or travel at 5.42 for half the price.

There is no Saturday service between Liverpool and Aston or Witton for Everton fans heading to Villa Park, and there were only a handful of seats left on Friday lunchtime for a National Express coach service to 3 am between Liverpool and Birmingham. Fulham supporters traveling to Molineux can make a nearly four-hour train journey with several changes, but Chiltern Railways has warned traveling supporters that their trains will be “extremely busy and customers should expect delays and to cancellations at short notice”.

Only the move from Leicester City to Arsenal will not be affected by the strikes.

A full League, League One and League Two schedule is also taking place this weekend, with Wigan v Bristol City, Plymouth v Peterborough and Swindon v Carlisle among the long drives hit by strikes.

What was said?

Rail companies have issued statements or used social media to issue warnings about disrupted services and advise passengers to make alternative arrangements or allow extra time.

Many clubs have also done the same.

In response to the ASLEF strikes, Steve Montgomery, Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are truly disappointed that ASLEF management has, for the second time in as many weeks, decided to impose even more uncertainty to passengers and businesses by disrupting passengers’ weekend plans.

“Like any service or business, things don’t stop there and we need to evolve with the times. We want to give our employees a raise because we know everyone is feeling the effects of the rising cost of living.

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan defended the strikes saying: “We don’t want to disturb passengers because our friends and families also use public transport, because we believe in building trust in the railways in Britain, and because we don’t want to lose money by taking industrial action.

“We don’t want to strike – strikes are always a last resort – but the companies and the government have, I fear, forced our hand.”

The Premier League’s responsibility lies with clubs to communicate with their fans regarding travel advice. It is understood that the disruption of rail transport for traveling supporters has not been raised at any shareholder meeting.

The EFL is said to have maintained a regular dialogue with its clubs regarding the industrial action, advising them to encourage supporters to plan their travels in advance and to seek alternative modes of transport.

How many fans use the train to get to matches?

According to Campaign for Better Transport, taking a train to a football game is the most common means of transport for home and away games.

For home matches, 34% of football fans travel to stadiums by train, and 29% of people travel to a match by car.

Fans are unsurprisingly much more dependent on trains for away matches, at 57% fans outside using rail services.

London clubs are less dependent on Overground trains as they are the underground, but 76% of supporters use the former for home games.

According to Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, 650,000 Premier League fans attend matches every week.

What other options do fans have?

Many supporters will have to travel via a different mode of transport.

Many will likely be forced to hit the roads and if a car isn’t an option, a coach might be. National Express and Megabus operate some services, but many seats have already been purchased.

London Underground services will operate as normal this weekend for supporters traveling to the capital.

(Photo: Getty Images)


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