Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas urged the Prime Minister Theresa May to sack Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, freeze fares and strip GTR of the Southern trains franchise.
The Green MP slated Mr Grayling at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday 14 December).
She said: “I do not think the Prime Minister has any idea of the level of pain that rail passengers and businesses in Brighton and beyond are suffering.
“It is not just on strike days. This has been going on for well over 18 months.
“Given the failure of her passive Transport Secretary, who apparently has no intention of acting to deal with this utterly incompetent company, will she sack him, strip GTR of the franchise and freeze fares for long-suffering passengers?”
Mrs May said: “First of all, my right honourable friend the Transport Secretary has been taking steps in relation to the general performance of Southern railway.
“We have stepped in to invest £20 million specifically to tackle the issue and bring a rapid improvement in services.
“We announced ‘Delay Repay 15’ from (Sunday) 11 December for the whole of Southern railway, which will make it easier for passengers to claim compensation.
“We have announced that we will give passengers who are season ticket holders on Southern a refund for a month’s travel.
“We have been looking at the wider issue.
“The honourable lady raises the question of the current strike. There is only one body responsible for the current strike, and that is Aslef.
“This a strike by the trade unions and she should be standing up and condemning that strike because it is passengers who suffer.”
Earlier the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Tim Loughton also put a question to the Prime Minister.
“And across Sussex thousands of others will be unable to get to work, to school or to college because Aslef objects to their drivers on Southern operating the doors.
“Yet today, Aslef drivers will be driving Thameslink trains on the same rails, operating the doors on the London to Brighton line.
“Can the Prime Minister give her assurance that everything will be done at the ACAS talks today to end this nonsense of a strike, address any residual safety issues and give our constituents their lives back?”
Mrs May said: “My honourable friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. This is an appalling strike and he is right to raise the discrepancy in the attitude of Aslef.
“We have seen driver-only operated trains on rail networks in the UK for decades and they are on Thameslink.
“I hope that the talks at ACAS are going to lead to an end to this strike but I have a suggestion for the Leader of the Opposition as he could do something to help members of the public.
“The Labour Party is funded by Aslef. Why does he not get on the phone and tell it to call the strike off immediately?”
On its website Southern said that services today (Thursday 15 December) would be disrupted because of the strikes yesterday and tomorrow.
The company said: “A reduced service will operate across the Southern network with no service on some routes due to the ongoing overtime ban and disruption caused by the strikes on (Wednesday) 14 December and (Friday) 16 December.
“We are expecting services to be disrupted throughout the day. This is due to trains starting the day in the wrong places for their normal working patterns following today’s driver strike action.
“Services in the evening will be disrupted as drivers prepare to take further strike action on Friday 16 December.”