Just a little bit of commuter misery so far as most Southern services running despite strike – but rush hour looms
A conductors’ strike on Southern trains over plans for staffing on longer trains has led to the cancellation of a third of services – but most are still running, train bosses say.
RMT members began the first of three 24-hour walkouts at 11am this morning, and Govia Thameslink says that up until now two thirds of trains are running.
But the evening rush hour is about to kick in, and the service will also have to cope with tomorrow’s morning rush hour before striking conductors return to work.
A spokesperson for Southern said: “This strike by the RMT is completely unnecessary and causes undue misery to our passengers. No staff would lose their jobs under our proposals or see a reduction in their salary, whilst passengers would benefit by having more visible staff on trains. We urge the RMT to come back to the negotiating table.
“As many trains will be staffed as today – we simply want to evolve the role of our on board staff to make them more visible and available to passengers.
“In addition, services won’t be cancelled if an on-board supervisor is not available. That in itself – particularly in times of disruption – is a massive bonus for our passengers.
“Journeys today and tomorrow are going to be very difficult and frustrating for our passengers. While we are working to run as many trains as possible, on some routes there will be no train service at all and on others it will be significantly reduced and start late and finish early.”
However, the RMT union insists that support amongst its members is “rock solid”. Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said: “Our guards members on Southern are rock-solid and determined this morning as they begin this phase of industrial action in defense of the life-or-death services they provide for the travelling public and against cash-driven cuts that would see those services hacked to ribbons.
“Let us be crystal clear – this dispute is about safety and the safety-critical role of the guards on Southern trains. The company, with an eye on ever-fatter profits, is prepared to axe the guards on some of the most overcrowded and potentially-dangerous services in Britain so that they can squeeze every last penny out of their passengers regardless of the consequences.
“That is a lethal gamble with safety in the name of profit and that is why we have been forced to take strike action today.
“Southern see their passengers as nothing more than self-loading freight, there to be fleeced at every turn and every opportunity. The consequences of removing guards, the human eyes and ears on that dangerous interface between crowded platforms and crowded trains, is blindingly obvious to anyone but the rip-off merchants running this deeply unpopular rail franchise.
“The company have now resorted to trying to bully and intimidate staff taking a stand to defend the safety-critical role of the guard. That is disgusting but nothing surprises us with this mob.
“The union stands firm and united in today’s action and we urge the public once again to support their rail workers. Our job is your safety.”