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Major disruption as Southern Rail is hit with severe industrial action

Only 50% of the full timetable will operate Photo: PA

Commuters are facing major disruption throughout the day today as Southern Rail conductors begin a three-day strike.

Members of the RMT union are protesting against the introduction of driver only trains across the franchise claiming the safety of passengers will be jeopardised. The rail operator denied this and condemned the strike.

"Regrettably, because of this wholly unnecessary and unjustified industrial action, there will be severe and significant disruption on our network and customers are advised that stations will be incredibly busy.

"If passengers can make alternative travel arrangements they should, and if they don't have to travel they shouldn't.

“This industrial action is a clearly co-ordinated and cynical manoeuvre by the unions to bring yet further travel misery to passengers as well as having a detrimental impact on the regional economy when it least needs it.

"If the unions are listening to passengers then they will call off all industrial action now and give hardworking commuters and their families their lives back."

– Alex Foulds, Southern Director
Southern Rail condemn the strike Credit: PA

The walkout means only around 50% of the full timetable will be able to operate and Southern Rail is expecting it to cause “severe and significant” disruption. The Transport Minister Chris Grayling is due to make a speech about rail policy in the capital later. The RMT leadership said they would lobby him at the event.

"It is crystal clear that the responsibility for sorting the total chaos on Southern rests with the Transport Secretary himself. He has repeatedly refused to meet with the trade unions to map out a way forwards. The union will now take our case to him directly...

“As General Secretary of Britain’s specialist transport union I meet with ministers on a regular basis and it is frankly absurd that Chris Grayling has refused point blank to meet with us while the Southern Rail dispute, which he has the power to settle as it is a direct management contract with the Government, rages on. Running our railways by central Government diktat is a recipe for disaster.”

– Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary

On the eve of the strike ITV Meridian's Political Correspondent Phil Hornby asked the Rail Minister what the government was going to do to resolve the ongoing dispute.

The RMT union described the dispute as 'chaos' Credit: PA

The action coincides with continuing industrial action by members of ASLEF. The union’s drivers are carrying out an overtime ban that is expected to severely affect services every day in the lead up to Christmas.

"We have done our level best to try and reach a sensible, workable compromise with Southern in the interests of passengers as well as staff.

"We have always been happy to talk to the company, and we have always believed it is, or should be, possible to do a deal - as we did with ScotRail in Scotland - but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate."

– Mick Whelan, Aslef General Secretary

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