Chaos and disruption have become the norm for commuters using Southern but there was added spice on Tuesday (October 11) with the first in a new round of strikes.
And, as if the rail gods were confirming their disdain for the beleaguered London-bound passenger, overrunning engineering works between Brighton and Gatwick Airport meant trains were cancelled or delayed for up to an hour.
Rail workers are continuing their attritional battle with the rail operators over the role of conductors – and the strike takes place against a backdrop of tentative agreement. The hardline RMT union had advised members to sign Southern’s new contract.
This gave fresh impetus to an attempt by Southern to stop the three-day action through the courts. Instead, it said it was running 61% of services and there will be disruption all morning, a prelude to 11 days of action between now and Christmas.
Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern Rail’s owner, Govia Thameslink Railway, said the changes to conductors’ jobs were going ahead so there was no reason to strike but he was “incredibly sorry” for the “months of misery”.
On Friday the RMT union it advised members to accept the deal and added that the strike went ahead while it studied the paperwork of Southern’s legal bid to halt the action.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “Once again this morning Southern have been peddling the lie that this dispute is about who opens and closes the doors when, in fact, it’s about the retention of a guaranteed, second safety-critical member of staff, with the full range of safety competencies, on all current services.
“Despite all the spin and bluster, the company refuse to give that guarantee.
“Southern have tried every dirty trick in the book to try and turn the public against the frontline rail staff whose only crime is standing up for safety on our railways while the parent company, who have dragged the GTR services through the mud, are hoarding £100million in profits.
“A fraction of that cash could keep the second safety-critical member of staff on the Southern services and resolve this dispute.
“RMT’s fight is with the company and the Government who have plunged this franchise into total meltdown. We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains.”
Southern said first class had been “declassified” across all its services on Tuesday, telling first-class ticket holders they could claim back the difference.
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