More train crew may join strikes

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Industrial unrest spread to more train operating companies yesterday and now affects up to 18,000 employees throughout most of the network.

Meanwhile, at London Underground some 1,800 drivers belonging to the union Aslef are today expected to accept a peace formula to end a campaign of 24-hour stoppages which has made travel in the capital chaotic. Their 900 colleagues in the RMT transport union however are predicted to reject the deal and may press ahead with a 24-hour stoppage on Friday. With Aslef drivers working, around two-thirds of services would run.

On the national rail system a third wave of disputes was announced by RMT officials who are planning to issue strike ballot papers to "on-train" catering staff and conductors at Central, Network SouthCentral and South East Trains. Unless there are settlements, voting will take place between 6 and 20 September, according to an RMT spokesman.

The former BR employees are clashing with management over productivity and breaks. Although trains will still run if the union presses ahead with industrial action, there will be no catering facilities or on-train staff. Only three out of the 25 train operators formed out of British Rail - Chiltern; Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern - are not involved in the present conflicts. Thames has settled.

Other ballots are due to take place between 29 August and 12 September at Inter-City West Coast; Gatwick Express; South West Trains; Anglia; Cardiff; Great Eastern; London, Tilbury and Southend; Midland Main Line and the Island Line which covers the Isle of Wight. Inter-City East Coast and Great Western, which settled their disputes with conductors and caterers, are now involved in similar arguments with their ticket examiners, who will also be balloted.

Unless there are last-minute deals, 24-hour stoppages are to take place this Friday and next Tuesday at North West Regional; South Wales and West; Merseyrail Electrics; North London Railways; Regional Railways North-east; CrossCountry and Scotrail.