RMT’s five-day strike on Southern starts

The RMT’s five-day strike in the bitter dispute with Southern over plans to expand driver-only operated (DOO) services started on Monday 8 August.

Hundreds of thousands of commuters will be affected by the action, which is the longest rail strike since 1968. Under a revised timetable, the operator has said it plans to run almost 60% of its normal services from Monday 8 August to Friday 12 August, rather than the 85% it has been running since last month.

Talks aimed at resolving the row collapsed at Acas last Friday in mutual recrimination.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The strike action this morning is rock solid across the Southern rail network as we fight to put rail safety before the profits of the failed Govia Thameslink operation.

“This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of Govia Thameslink and the government, who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern.”

The union has called on GTR, Southern’s parent company, to match terms offered by ScotRail in a similar dispute.

Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern, said he was “deeply sorry” for any inconvenience caused.

“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.

Ahead of the strike action, London mayor, Sadiq Khan, reiterated his previous plea that Transport for London executives should take charge of the Southern franchise to fix the problems that have blighted commuters.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said: “Thousands of Londoners and longer-distance commuters are facing further disruption as a result of this strike action.

“The government should accept Sadiq’s offer of putting a senior team from TfL in charge of the GTR Southern franchise until we get a permanent resolution.”

London TravelWatch also renewed its calls for Southern and the DfT to begin talks with TfL to see how they might provide additional help for passengers who are continuing to face unacceptable disruptions to their rail services. 

The newly appointed rail minister Paul Maynard, who replaced Clair Perry after her resignation over the Southern dispute, said: “This strike action from the RMT will do nothing other than cause yet more disruption and daily misery for passengers.

“It is deeply disappointing that the union bosses continue to overlook the impact they are having on the travelling public, and I strongly condemn this proposed action.”

Southern was recently forced to cancel 341 services a day in order to try and control the unexpected delays that have blighted the franchise, although it has since restored 16. The operator has refused to give a date for when its cancelled services will be restored. It said the revised timetable will operate “for a minimum three weeks” after the end of the strike on 12 August.

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Kevinr   08/08/2016 at 14:25

Mayor Khan I suggest you ask all transport executives if DOO is the future. If so then what will you do / who do you turn to? The franchisee and indeed privatisation is not the issue - its the unions, shackle of all British industry.

Jason   08/08/2016 at 14:55

This strike is just another slap in the face for passengers who now don't care who presses the button to shut the doors, they just want to have the train service they are paying through the nose for.

Richardw   08/08/2016 at 16:17

So Mayor Kahn thinks he can solve this dispute but doesn't LOR operate DOO and no guards; Can't see Mr Cash happy with that. But listening to ASLEF's safety argument on Broadcasting House yesterday - has there really been an increase of rapes and gun crime on the railways; in which case CCTV in every carriage, as one guard who is forbidden to intervene ain't going to make much difference.

Jerry Alderson   08/08/2016 at 17:14

Richardw is correct. TfL has been the only organisation to have expanded DOO since privatisation (c2c was already planned but happened after privatisation). Heathrow Express started in 1998 and was DOO from day one. In 2013 TfL's London Overground concession went from 60% to 100% DOO. TfL is the only one to have ***removed*** the second person. It had the muscle to win a battle with the unions. The privatised companies do not - they only have a short franchise and unless they make changes at the start they will never see a return on the loss. That's why the TOCs have never introduced changes. Even so GTR is not introducing DOO, it is introducing DCO. It ***says*** it will be ***keeping*** the second person. Frankly, a guard hiding in the rear cab (which happens far too often) does nothing to prevent rape and other assaults. Making that second person serve passengers the entire time will reduce incidents. If people were being raped across the railway the best way of reducing it would be to convert the opaque metal 'rape cages' (otherwise known as lifts) that are being installed around the network with glass ones.

Martin T   08/08/2016 at 17:28

Just watched BBC News channel. Live from Chichester. Told by reporter that al lthe trains have guards. The train that departed had cameras mounted on the side - could have run without guards. I hope that DfT keeps its nerve and doesn't cave in like Scotrail.

Erich   08/08/2016 at 17:58

Sad state of affairs and reflects very badly on both parties

Martin T   08/08/2016 at 18:25

Just watched Sky News. Not taking sides but GTR quotes reflected publicised truth of their plans. RMT quotes were all about the guard being removed i.e. just one member of staff on train. This is a blatant lie by RMT. Occasionally there may be just the driver but it will be by exception e.g. because the second person was ill or did not turn up. Media have allowed RTM distortion to be reported as equally truthful as GTR's view. I'm not saying GTR are saints but there isn't equal honesty on both sides.

Jason   09/08/2016 at 10:28

Whoever runs this franchise are required to implement DOO as per the DfT. Should TfL (or someone else) take over they have a fleet of train already DOO fitted and can just get rid of the guards outright, at least with GTR they'll still have a job.

John Grant   09/08/2016 at 13:07

The min-series Full Steam Ahead currently running on BBC2 (and iPlayer) reminds us that in the days when there were three traincrew it was the guard who was responsible for safety. With the end of steam the one who shovelled the coal became redundant, but it was quite a while before the unions accepted that. Now with ATO etc the driver is redundant (anyone who doesn't believe that take a ride on the DLR) but for some reason it's the crew member whose job can't be automated that is being got rid of. Of course, if we went back to the good old days when passengers were trusted to open the doors themselves, ...

Jerry Alderson   09/08/2016 at 14:36

John Grant is correct about the long-term future. Train drivers will be pointless once a central computer controls all train movement but we are many years away from that. DLR was a new scheme intended to be 'driverless" from day one. The on-baord staff actually gives 'right away' to the vehicle. Likewise almost all of the driverless metro systems are new builds. However, some have been converted. Last week I travelled on Paris Metro Line 1, which was converted about five years ago. We need to eliminate level crossings as they cause too many incidents. At larger stations platform-edge doors may be appropriate. The boss of Deutsche Bahn recently said that thwey plan to have driverless trains running by 2023, perhaps the first by 2012. DB has recently had a series of strikes by drivers. Whether DB realy intends to introduce it so quickly remians to be seen.

Jerry Alderson (Fix Typo On Previous)   09/08/2016 at 14:39

The boss of Deutsche Bahn recently said that they plan to have driverless trains running by 2023, perhaps the first by 2021.

Richardw   09/08/2016 at 15:41

I see there is to be a strike on VTEC now. Sorry Mike Cash does not impress me, as he seems determined to string as many strikes as possible together for his own political ends. He may have some legitimate gripes but he seems hell bent of overwhelming any public sympathy and ensuring his members get grief. I do agree with the above comments that franchises are too short hold meaningful negotiations and that say 20 years would be a good aim for stability. To my mind his members have been very great winners of privatization (I can remember when train staff wages were appalling) so for the life of me I can't see why they want to go back to centrally (low) planned pay rises and conditions.

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