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Published: Tue, August 23, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Southern rail strike: hundreds of trains cancelled


Hundreds of trains have been cancelled on the Southern network across south east England.

"Many people's lives are being turned upside down by this strike action by the RMT trade union, which is unacceptable, it is unnecessary and it is unjustified", he told BBC radio 5.

"Passengers on this route want a timetable they can rely on, but they also want more modern, spacious services, that is exactly what the train operator is trying to deliver, but is being blocked by the RMT".

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: "It has become increasingly clear that the barrier to resolving the Southern-GTR dispute is the Tory government".

"Our fight is with the company and the government who have dragged this franchise into total meltdown", said RMT General Secretary Mick Cash.

"We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we can not sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains", said Cash.

Well, see, the union believes safety would be affected if the role of conductors is changed - especially with a rise in passenger numbers that's pretty relentless.

Southern, which has about 300,000 passengers a day, said on Monday it was operating almost 60% of its regular timetable during the strike and 88.5% of those services were running on time.

Southern, which runs trains from destinations such as Brighton and Gatwick Airport, has said only 60 percent of its services would operate during the week-long stoppage, the longest British rail walkout for nearly 50 years, and no trains would operate at all on some routes.

Bruce Williamson, a spokesman for the Railfuture passenger group, said: "There is generally a problem with overcrowding and resources on the railway, so then adding on a strike is a double whammy for customers".

RMT members claimed this would "threaten the role of the guards and undermine rail safety".

Train drivers working for Southern and Thameslink are being balloted for strike action which could take place in September.

During mediation talks last week, the union said it had offered to call off the strike if GTR promised there would be a second staff member on trains while negotiations continued.

The dispute is over GTR's plans to roll out "driver-only operated" (DOO) trains, which means drivers will have the responsibility of shutting train doors via CCTV instead of conductors.

Southern says on-board staff - like, say, conductors - would then be able to focus on helping passengers.

"It is in no one's interests to prolong this dispute when the framework that can take us forward has been so clearly laid out".

The rail operator has already set up an emergency timetable with 15% fewer services running because it was failing to run the full service without consistent cancellations and delays.

The strike has drawn condemnation from Prime Minister Theresa May and other government figures.

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