Southern in line for more strikes as talks break down
Southern passengers have been warned to expect another day of cancelled services as talks between parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Aslef failed to avert a strike.
GTR resumed talks with the union yesterday after a 48-hour Aslef drivers’ strike forced the operator to cancel all services and tell passengers not to travel.
However, the company announced that today’s talks had failed to reach an agreement, meaning a further strike will take place on Friday, with passengers advised not to travel again.
Nick Brown, GTR’s chief operating officer, said: “We’re deeply disappointed, as our passengers will be, that Aslef has been unable to accept our proposals and we cannot find a way forward to end this dispute with the drivers’ union at this stage.
“We’re sincerely sorry that commuters work and family lives are being punished with this unjustified and unprecedented industrial action.”
An Aslef spokesperson told RTM that the union was “still continuing talks next week”, but tomorrow’s strike would go ahead. Aslef also has an ongoing overtime ban, further contributing to the disruption.
Southern has already repeatedly suffered disruption caused by guards’ strikes led by the RMT. Both unions oppose the expansion of driver-only operated (DOO) services, saying it will threaten jobs and passenger safety. Mick Cash, president of RMT, claims he was barred from yesterday’s strike talks.
Tomorrow Gatwick Express trains, also operated by GTR, will run every 30 minutes instead of every 15.
UPDATE: 11:37 16/12/2016: In the wake of continuing strikes today (Friday), the government is under pressure to find a solution to the crisis. On Thursday night around 120 passengers marched to the DfT from Victoria station, Southern’s main London hub, to hand in a letter demanding government action to break the deadlock between Southern and the unions.
A spokesman for the Association of British Commuters, said: “We have suffered a year-long nightmare because of the collapse of Southern rail. We have desperately called for government action and have been repeatedly ignored – even while many of us have lost our jobs, or had to move house.”
Katy Davies, one of the organisers of the march, said: “This is not just about the financial impact of paying for a service that doesn’t work, but quality of life: people who are losing jobs, patients missing treatment, families who have to arrange emergency childcare, people thrown off trains that aren’t going anywhere late at night.”
Davies said that Southern services were unreliable every day even before the strikes, adding: “We’re at breaking point and want answers from Chris Grayling. If he fails to act, we’d call for his resignation.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “I am deeply disappointed that this totally unnecessary strike action is to continue and cause thousands of passengers more disruption and misery."
(Image c. Victoria Jones from PA Wire and PA Images)
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