Southern strikes called in longest running industrial dispute

A Southern Rail train pulls up to Crystal Palace station. Pic: Charlie Floyd

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has announced a further two days of strikes that will affect Croydon commuters in the long running industrial dispute with Southern Rail over driver-only trains.

Round-table talks between the union, Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and the Government have yet again broken down over the issue of driver-only operated trains, which threatens the future of guards.

The union has called guards and drivers to strike on October 3 and 5, which heaps further misery on the company’s 300,000 passengers, who may have to deal with delays and cancellations.

The dispute, which has caused more than 30 days of strike action over the last 18 months, has centred around plans to extend driver-only trains.

The union has continually opposed the proposals out of defence of the train guard as a second member of staff that is critical to safety.

Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said: “RMT is bitterly disappointed that Southern Rail and the Department for Transport continue to reject our call for round table discussions.

“The failure to get those talks moving following our face to face meeting with Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has left us no option but to call further action.”

Cash paid tribute to the Southern Rail guards and drivers for their role in Britain’s longest running industrial dispute, for standing firm, “despite outrageous abuse and intimidation from the company”.

“This fiasco cannot be allowed to drag on any longer,” he said.

“The union stands ready and waiting for genuine and meaningful talks with all parties and we are pressing Mr Grayling to get his contractors into line as a matter of urgency.”

Nick Brown, chief operating officer for GTR, told Eastlondonlies: “We are disappointed by this unnecessary action and the RMT’s continued refusal to engage with us in modernising the railway.”

He said that passengers would “inevitably be affected in places”, and expressed “deep regret” at any inconvenience these strikes would cause.

“Modernisation is urgently required to future-proof and increase capacity on this, the busiest part of the UK railway, where passenger numbers have doubled in 12 years,” he said.

“RMT needs to play its part if passengers are to benefit from service improvements.”

The strikes are set to begin from 00:01 on Tuesday October 3.

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