A rail union has offered to suspend industrial action in a debilitating dispute with Southern Rail bosses which has left passengers suffering severe delays and cancellations
But Southern Rail has not been receptive to the idea and wants resolution now.
The strikes, coupled with high sickness levels, have left commuters frustrated and furious – with one MP reporting that a constituent had been threatened with disciplinary action over his tardiness.
The Reigate, Redhill and District Rail Users’ Association even took out an advert in The Times this week to voice their protest.
Chairman Stephen Trigg said: “We want the government who control the service under a management contract, GTR Southern and RMT union to all sit together in a room and sort it out urgently for all the thousands of passengers whose lives are being ruined by their actions.”
The final straw for many is the introduction of an emergency timetable with 341 fewer daily services from key commuter towns. There is even talk that Southern’s lamentable service is hitting house prices in places like Brighton.
The dispute centres on Southern’s plans to introduce more driver-only trains in the summer and the RMT union said it suspend action for three months if Southern also suspends proposals for a similar period.
Southern’s passenger services director Alex Founds said: “All of the points between us have been debated for a long time now. It is quite simple to come to a resolution now. I certainly do not want to wait for another three months for our customers to gain some of the benefits we hope we get from these changes we want to make.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union’s idea would “allow us time and space to sit down together and try and explore options that will seek to deliver the lasting improvements to service and reliability we all want”.
The latest twist in the dispute comes as figures show that Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) had the worst cancellation record of any train operator with one in 20 failing to run, according to the Office of Rail and Road.
This was up from 4.3% from the year before last for the company that runs the Southern trains in Surrey and Sussex, as well as the Thameslink route from Brighton to Bedford via London, the Gatwick Express to and from Gatwick Airport and the Great Northern route north of London.
All but two of Britain’s other train companies managed to keep their cancelled trains under three per cent of their total – with Southeastern another failure.
The shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the Government should consider stripping the company of the franchise.
Percentage of cancelled trains
Train Operating Company // % of trains cancelled, 2015/16
- Govia Thameslink Railway: 5.00%
- First TransPennine Express: 4.90%
- Southeastern: 3.30%
- CrossCountry: 2.80%
- London Midland: 2.70%
- TfL Rail: 2.60%
- Virgin Trains East Coast: 2.50%
- South West Trains: 2.50%
- Greater Anglia: 2.50%
- Arriva Trains Wales: 2.50%
- Virgin Trains West Coast: 2.30%
- ScotRail: 2.20%
- Great Western Railway: 2.20%
- London Overground: 2.10%
- Merseyrail: 1.90%
- Northern: 1.50%
- East Midlands Trains: 1.50%
- Chiltern: 1.20%
- c2c: 1.20%