On the first day of a five-day strike by guards, the train company Southern said that almost nine out of ten services were running on time.
The company said: “This figure is a manual figure compiled by Southern as we are unable to rely on industry data which is showing inaccurate Public Performance Data due to a data systems error.”
And this morning Southern’s website warned passengers the “online journey planner may not be updated as we had a technical glitch this morning”.
Pickets from the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport) union were outside Brighton and London Victoria stations with the message that the strike was about safety not jobs or money. The union said that support for the strike was strong.
The dispute is about the introduction of “driver-only operation” – with responsibility for ensuring that it is safe to close the doors switching from guards to drivers.
The change is being brought about with the introduction of new trains. Other parts of the network already operate with driver-only trains.
The union said that the proposed changes to the role of guards would put passengers at risk, particularly on crowded platforms.
Union officials said that it was about money and that some trains will run without guards who will in any case be used to sell more tickets and issue more penalty fares.
Southern said that the guards, or conductors, would have a more customer-facing role and that trains would not usually run without conductors – or onboard supervisors as they will be known.
This afternoon (Monday 8 August) Alex Foulds, Southern’s passenger services director, said: “We would like to thank our passengers for the patience and understanding they are showing during this unnecessary strike and we apologise to them for the disruption they are experiencing today.
“However, the good news is that the timetable we are operating is 60 per cent of our normal service and these are running well.
“The RMT is causing yet more misery for our passengers and we call on them to let this strike be the last.”
The train company urged passengers to check online before setting off and said that there were “no trains on some routes and no service after 6pm on others”.
The RMT said on Friday that it had offered to suspend the strike if Southern agreed comparable terms on guards and safety to those adopted by ScotRail in a similar dispute.
But the union’s general secretary Mick Cash said that neither the company behind Southern – Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – nor the government seemed to want to resolve the dispute.
New contracts changing the guards’ roles are expected to take effect in a fortnight’s time.
But new strikes with two other unions are in prospect. The TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association) is to ballot more than 250 station staff members on strike action over plans by GTR to close ticket offices and shed staff.
And ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, is to ballot staff over “a breakdown in industrial relations”. The dispute is about GTR imposing driver rosters.
The Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle said that the problems on Southern were so serious that Parliament should be recalled.
He said that ministers, officials, Southern and the RMT should stay in talks until the long-running dispute was finally resolved.
On Wednesday protesters are to march on the Department for Transport, setting off from Victoria Station at 5.30pm.
The organisers plan to present a letter, signed by Southern passengers, to Paul Maynard, the new Rail Minister, asking him to listen to passengers, freeze fares and pay compensation.
One of the organisers, Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We are forced into this action as Southern Rail passengers are fed up with suffering such a poor service.
“The ongoing problems with Southern Rail need to be urgently addressed and it is time for the Department for Transport to take urgent action to restore public confidence in the franchise.
“The DfT must ensure passengers receive greatly improved services and appropriate compensation, to enforce franchise commitments and to agree mechanisms so performance levels do not fall to such levels again.”
And Summer Dean, from the Association of British Commuters, said: “We are sick and tired of this constant blame passing between Southern Rail and the government and are fed up to the back teeth of the constant delays, cancellations and poor excuses.
“We are calling on all angry Southern passengers to have their voice heard by signing our giant letter and to join us in marching in protest against this miserable situation.
“The government must be told that it’s not acceptable to continue charging passengers high fares for unreliable, late and packed trains.”