Brighton and Hove commuters face the fallout from another strike on the railways today (Wednesday 18 May).
Fewer trains will run between Brighton and London and none between Hove and Preston Park, which means no services from Hove and Portslade to and from London.
Guards – also known as conductors – belonging to the RMT union are striking over moves to change their role by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs the Southern franchise.
This will involve more services being “driver-only”, prompting safety concerns from the RMT which have been dismissed by Southern.
Both sides are also accusing each other of refusing to talk. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is scandalous that the company have blocked attempts to reach a negotiated settlement and it’s about time they stopped the lies and the bullying and the intimidation of their safety-critical guards and started serious and meaningful talks with the union.”
GTR chief operating officer Dyan Crowther said: “Despite repeated efforts over six months, the RMT union seems unwilling to talk properly about this.
“Our door remains open to talks but they seem determined to inflict another day of misery on Southern commuters.
“It’s time for them to come back to the negotiating table and talk sensibly about these changes.
“The only thing that changes is the new conductors will no longer close the doors, a task that passes to the driver with the aid of CCTV.
“This will cost no one their jobs and frees up staff on board trains to better serve passengers.”
Since December the company and union have met eight times to talk about the changes including last Thursday.
The company also responded to RMT polling which showed that passengers want staff to remain on trains.
It said: “We wholeheartedly agree with our passengers who want staff to remain on trains and that’s exactly why as many services will have staff on board as they do today.
“And our on-board staff will have a better role which better meets the needs of passengers, securing their valued position on the railway for the long term.”
Southern said that the change to the conductor role would result in fewer train cancellations – and there have been dozens of cancelled services recently with the company blaming higher sickness rates than usual.
Southern said that it expects to run about two thirds of its 2,100 services today (Wednesday 18 May) during the strike.
It added: “There will be a significant impact for the whole of the day, with no service on several routes and only a limited service between approximately 7.30am and 6pm on others although Southern will extend the service hours if possible.”
Mick Cash said: “There has been a disgraceful campaign of misinformation by GTR over the staffing crisis on Southern Trains that has led to more services being cancelled today.
“The hard fact is that this company does not employ enough staff to fill the rosters and is carrying significant levels of vacancies.
“They do that because it saves them money and allows them to pump up the profits which can then be shipped across the Channel to subsidise their operations in France.
“For Southern/GTR to try and turn the blame for this staffing crisis on to the union is ludicrous when the public can see clearly that the fault lies squarely with this penny-pinching outfit who will stop at nothing to fleece this franchise, and its passengers, for every penny that they can.”