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RMT announces more Southern strike dates

Strikes are planned in October, November and December Credit: Press Association

The rail union, RMT, have confirmed a series of strikes in the row over the role of guard on Southern rail trains.

Union bosses say Southern Rail is insistent on removing the safety-trained guards from the trains. It's a critical role that the RMT and disability campaigners say must stay.

The RMT describes the company's decision as a "blatant disregard for the safety and security of passengers and staff alike", leaving it with no alternative but to declare [strike] action"

These strikes are scheduled to take place:

  • 00.01 on Tuesday 11th October and 23.59 on Thursday 13th October
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 18th October and 23.59 on Thursday 20th October
  • 00.01 on Thursday 3rd November and 23.59 on Saturday 5th November
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 22nd November and 23.59 on Wednesday 23rd November
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 6th December and 23.59 on Thursday 8th December

Here is the RMT's full statement:

Yet again our members are being forced to take industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service on Southern. Govia Thameslink and the Government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute. Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation (DOO) without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access. Last week there was a train derailment near Watford that involved two trains. The Guards on both trains played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances. If the train had been DOO and without a Guard the consequences would have been far worse. This week we reached a deal with Scotrail that we are recommending for acceptance in a referendum of our members, that guarantees a fully competent Conductor/Guard on every new train. This agreement protects passengers, and guarantees a second safety trained member of staff on board a train, who can assist if there is an incident such as we recently saw near Watford. If an agreement can be reached on Scotrail, then an agreement can also be made on Southern. In the light of these recent developments it is disgraceful that neither the company or the Government are prepared to engage and are continuing to attempt to impose DOO in the interests of putting profit before safety. We call on them to get round the negotiating table as an urgent priority."

– RMT General Secretary Mick Cash

£20m bail-out for Southern 'beggars belief' says MP

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Credit: ITV News

An East Sussex MP has accused the government of 'ploughing subsidies into a failing private company' after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced £20m of government funding for Southern Rail.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, commented about the funding, which is part of a package of measures announced today to improve Southern's performance after months of cancellations and delays.

It’s astonishing that taxpayers’ money is set to be used to bail out a firm which lavishes its bosses with million pound wage packets. If the Government was serious about sorting the problems with Southern Rail then they would withdraw the damaging requirement for driver only trains, use this cash to employ the staff needed to run the railway and give long-suffering passengers the compensation they deserve.

It beggars belief that the Government is willing to plough subsidies into a failing private company but won’t countenance bringing the railways under democratic control through public ownership. Their ideological zealotry is getting in the way of common sense – and needlessly prolonging the pain for passengers.”

– Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion

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Government announces £20m fund to improve Southern Rail services

Credit: ITV News Meridian

After months of delays, strikes and misery for passengers, the government has announced a £20m fund to improve Southern Rail services.

The money - from Network Rail - will go towards hiring extra staff at key stations and the faster replacement of worn track. The Department for Transport has demanded rapid improvements and have created a new project Board to oversee the developments. It will be headed by former chief operating officer of Virgin Rail Group, Chris Gibb, who has more than 35 years experience of working in key leadership roles in the rail industry.

The Department for Transport say the key additional benefits of the £20m include:

  • £2m to be spent on more rapid response teams to fix faults more quickly, located close to known hotspots;
  • £2.5m to be spent on accelerated train maintenance;
  • £0.8m investment in extra signal supervisors to keep trains moving across the network;
  • £0.9m investment in a series of measures to minimise the impact of bridge strikes.

I want the Southern network to be run by a team of people who work together to make sure passengers get decent journeys and that problems are dealt with quickly. This review will suggest how we achieve a joined up approach to running the train and tracks and make things work better for the public.

We also need to get to grips with things that go wrong on this part of the network. That is why we are putting in place a £20m scheme to tackle the cause of breakdowns that too often cause frustrating and damaging delays on the network.

I now urge the industry, the train operating company and unions to work together to improve services for passengers.”

– Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

BREAKING: Southern Rail staff announce new 48-hour strike

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Rail passengers will face more travel chaos as Southern Railway announce a new 48-hour strike.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union say its members will walk out on 7th and 8th September. It's over the long-running row over the role of guards on trains, changes which were imposed from Sunday.

The strikes will come on top of months of disruption to Southern's services because of industrial action and staff shortages.

Passengers have staged demonstrations to protest the level of services.

Thames Govia calls for fresh talks to resolve industrial action

The company which owns under fire Southern Rail has asked ACAS for fresh talks to try to resolve the on-going industrial dispute.

Govia Thameslink is calling on the union to call off it's five day strike by conductors due to start next month.

Conductors are due to walk out for five days on 8th August Credit: ITV Meridian

“The RMT’s claims we have refused to engage with them are simply not true and we are calling on them to come to Acas and sort this out for the sake of our passengers.

“Passengers have been suffering daily disruption ever since the RMT began this unnecessary action and should not be forced to suffer five days more, all because the RMT is refusing to work with us and modernise the railway for the benefit of our passengers.

“We have guaranteed all our onboard staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.

“We value the work of our staff, who are trying their best to deliver service levels that passengers expect. The sooner we can introduce the essential modernisation that our railways desperately need, the sooner we will address the current capacity and performance issues and deliver a better service for our passengers.”

– Chief Operating Officer Dyan Crowther

Rail ticket office staff to be balloted for strike action

Rail passengers who use Southern and Thameslink services are facing more misery after the rail Union RMT decided to ballot hundreds of ticket office staff for strike action.

Southern says changes would improve services for customers Credit: PA

The union says GTR, which owns the companies, wants to close ticket offices and cut 130 jobs.

The new action is on top of the chaos being caused by an on-going dispute over the roll of guards.

Under the plan new roles of Station Hosts will be created that will see staff removed from ticket offices and sent onto platforms to assist passengers and sell tickets.

The impact of their proposals cannot be underestimated. GTR want to close ticket offices, or cut them to morning peak only, at 83 stations from as far afield as Kings Lynn and Bognor Regis. As a means of doing this they plan to introduce a new multi-functional role of Station Host which we estimate will result in a cut of at least 130 jobs.

– RMT Union

GTR insists it is the best use of staff time and will improve services for passengers.

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Passengers locked out as rail chaos deepens

Rail unions say we're on the edge of a disaster. MPs say there could be serious injuries - or worse. The Mayor of London says Southern should be stripped of its franchise.

And the tens of thousands of commuters caught up in the chaos of delays in Sussex - and the closure of Brighton station last night - say the situation has become intolerable.

It's been a long dispute between Southern Rail and the unions. And, the delays and overcrowding are getting worse.

Malcolm Shaw heard from passenger Pam Roach, and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.

  1. Phil Hornby

The Last Word, July 2016

Out with the old, and in the with the new. Goodbye to the EU, and hello to the vicar's daughter from Sussex - the Maidenhead MP, Theresa May. So much has happened on the political scene in the last three weeks. Whoever thought in June, that it would be May in July ?

On this month's Last Word, Helen Whately MP, the Faversham & Mid Kent Conservative; Anneliese Dodds MEP, the Labour euro-MP for South East England; and Tim Loughton MP, who represents the Conservatives in Worthing East & Shoreham debate what a Theresa May Government will look like. And they look at the future of the Labour Party as challengers emerge to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

MP holds public meeting about Southern trains row

A Southern train in the tracks

The MP for Horsham, Jeremy Quin, has been holding a public meeting this morning about rail services in his constituency.

The Conservative politician raised the issue in the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Question Time on 29th June. His constituency is served by Southern trains, the firm at the centre of a row with the RMT union over planned changes to the role of guards. There have been a number of strikes by workers, and on Monday the rail operator is due to introduce an emergency timetable which includes cancelling 341 trains a day.

Ahead of today's meeting, the MP said:

For non-train users I cannot adequately convey the sheer frustration of those that are (and pay so much for the privilege). Southern’s new Emergency Timetable may be a reflection of reality but announcing the cancellation of hundreds of services – services which were advertised when commuters bought their season tickets - will not win “hearts and minds”, nor will the inevitable over-crowding.

– Jeremy Quin, MP for Horsham

Southern passengers to hold protest

Passengers will hold a protest on Monday afternoon Credit: ITV Meridian

Southern passengers are to hold a new protest about the current state of services. It will be held at Victoria on Monday evening as the company introduce 341 cuts to services.

Passengers say it is simply not good enough to cut trains which will lead to more crowding.

The company say it will better inform passengers about what services are more likely to run.

The dispute centres on the role of the guard.

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