Train drivers have voted overwhelmingly to continue taking strike action for the next six months in their long-running dispute over pay.

Members of Aslef backed more industrial action after being reballoted, well over a year since the dispute began.

The announcement was made as train drivers started a week-long overtime ban which was expected to cause disruption to services across England.

Aslef members will launch a series of strikes from Saturday which will cripple services.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said the union was “in this for the long haul”, adding: “Our members, who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now, are determined that the train companies, and the Tory Government that stands behind them, do the right thing.

“The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out. The bosses at the train companies, as well as Tory MPs and Government ministers, have had increases in pay.

“It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less.

“Train drivers are fed up and frustrated that their employers failed to negotiate in good faith, making a proposal through the Rail Delivery Group which they knew – because we had told them – would be turned down and then to blame drivers for the train companies’ inability to manage services and the rail industry effectively.

“Aslef members, key workers who kept our country moving through the pandemic, are simply asking for a fair and decent deal.

“We haven’t had a meeting with Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, since December 2022. We haven’t had a meeting with Huw Merriman, the rail minister, since January, and we haven’t heard from the employers, the private sector train operating companies for whom we work, since April.

“We have always said that we are prepared to come to the table but the Government and train companies need to understand that this dispute won’t be resolved by trying to bully our members into accepting worse terms and conditions of employment.

“Looking at the resolve of our members as shown by all the branch meetings I have attended and these new ballot results – and the solidarity they have shown on the picket line since the first ballots went out in June 2022 – we are calling on the Government to let the companies come back to the table and make our members a sensible offer, with no strings attached, to reflect the increase in the cost of living.”

Unions involved in disputes have to reballot their members every six months to ask if they want to continue taking industrial action.

Aslef members at 12 train operators in England were reballoted, each returning huge votes in favour on high turnouts.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “Following RMT members voting to overwhelmingly accept the train operators’ pay offer, Aslef is now not just the only rail union still striking but the only union not to even put an offer to its members.

“They are instead choosing to cause more misery for passengers and the hospitality sector this festive period.

“The fair and reasonable offer that’s long been on the table would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 for a 35 hour, four day week.

“Aslef’s leadership should follow in the footsteps of all the other rail unions by doing the right thing and giving their members a say on that offer.”

A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group said: “Strikes called by the Aslef leadership continue to result in huge disruption for our customers, staff and the hospitality industry.

“It is disappointing that after the rolling strikes and overtime ban which start today there could be more strikes in 2024.

“Our priority is finding a fair and affordable way through this dispute, so we can end the disruption to our passengers, give our people a pay rise and return the industry to a sustainable footing at a time when taxpayers are contributing an extra £54 million a week to keep services running post covid.

“We have always been clear that we remain open to constructive dialogue with Aslef to find a resolution, and that is still the case.”

Press Association – Alan Jones