Fed up commuters are to hold a demonstration at Brighton Station tomorrow evening in protest at Southern keeping its franchise despite weeks of chaos on the Brighton mainline.
The news comes as the RMT union, which has called several strikes in protest at the move to driver-only trains, slammed Go-Ahead for paying its bosses huge bonuses while passengers suffer.
As well as three walkouts, services have been disrupted by daily cancellations blamed on staffing problems – which Southern says is down to union members calling in sick, and which the RMT says is down to poor management and a lack of overall staff.
The protest, organised by a Twitter account named @southernrailout, is being held on the concourse at 6.30pm tomorrow.
— #southernrailout (@southernrailout) June 13, 2016
A blog post quoting an anonymous member of railway staff which claims that Southern has banned guards from working overtime in punishment for striking is being widely shared today – but Southern Rail categorically denies the claims.
But amid the accusations and counter-accusations flying around, one thing is certain – commuters are bearing the brunt of the problems.
Following a meeting between MPs and Govia last week, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said: “The appalling problems for rail passengers on the Brighton Mainline provide a classic example of how complicated relationships in our privatised train industry are.
“Passengers are at the mercy of contracts that are not subject to democratic oversight.
“Ministers shift the goalposts to let Govia off defaulting, and all MPs and passengers have to go on is censored information, released three months late. Commercial confidentiality is in the way of transparency and accountability.”
The RMT today published details of Go-Ahead’s company accounts which showed that its chief executive David Brown was paid £2.16million from July 2014 and June 2015, mostly in bonuses. The previous year he was paid £1.96million, and the year before £942,000.
The accounts also show that shareholders were paid £36.7million in dividends in 2014/15 and £34.7million in 2013/14.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is truly shocking that part of the bonuses paid by the British passenger to the bosses of GTR is down to their ‘successful mobilisation’ of the current franchise.
“Commuters paying up to £5000 a year for these failing service will be rightly furious. These bonuses are truly money for old rope.
“RMT has revealed that GTR are already being allowed to increase cancellations by a third to 32,000 under its new contract with the Government and now we find that the top brass at this basket-case franchise are on a one way ticket to the bank as well.
“This situation is a national disgrace.”
On Wednesday, the RMT is to be joined by French railways workers to lobby the offices of Keolis, which co-owns GTR with Go-Ahead.
A spokesman for Go-Ahead said it did not wish to comment on the RMT’s remarks, but a Southern spokesman said the claims about a ban on overtime were “categorically untrue”.
He said: “This is unfounded and untrue. We are doing our best to run as many trains as possible under very difficult circumstances. Every train that is cancelled also costs us a significant financial penalty; there is simply no incentive for us to cancel trains unnecessarily.”