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Southern to run up to two-thirds of services as RMT strike starts

The latest 48-hour strike on Southern has started, with the company promising to put more trains on the tracks in order to keep almost two-thirds of services running.

The strike action, which began at midnight and will run until Wednesday, is the latest in an ongoing dispute about plans to introduce driver-only operated (DOO) services by Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

Southern announced last week that it would be able to provide additional services during the strike, meaning 62% of the normal timetable would be running.

Angie Doll, Southern’s passenger services director, said: “We are doing everything we can to provide as many services for our passengers as possible and I’m pleased that we’re able to add more services this time to help our passengers get where they need to go.”

In addition to the Victoria/Haywards Heath shuttles it introduced in the last strike on 4 and 5 November, Southern will provide a further 28 trains between Tonbridge and Redhill, with an hourly service running from around 06.30 to 18.30.

Trains between Victoria and Chichester will run later, with the last services leaving Victoria at 21.36 and from Chichester at 21.23.

However, there will be no services between Wivelsfield and Lewes, and both Plumpton and Cooksbridge stations will be closed. Some routes will offer a replacement bus service or ticket exchange with other operators.

Doll claimed that the strike was “pointless” because over 99% of affected conductors had signed up for the new role of on-board supervisors, who will not be able to operate train doors.

As the strikes started, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Despite all of the dirty tricks from the company RMT can confirm that the strike action is rock solid and determined again this morning across the Southern Rail network as we fight to put rail safety and access before the profits of the failed Govia Thameslink operation.”

He called on the DfT to “force Southern back to the negotiating table”.

RMT is due to hold further strikes on 6-8 December, followed by controversial plans to strike over Christmas and New Year.

Last month, a Transport Select Committee report criticised the DfT, GTR and RMT for contributing to severe disruption on Southern services. GTR has currently applied for force majeure, meaning it has been unable to fulfil its contractual promises because of reasons beyond its control, over the strikes.

Representatives of six local councils along the route affected by Southern strikes – Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Croydon, Merton and Sutton – have now written to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, backing calls for the Southern franchise to be transferred to Transport for London.

Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth Cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “The service provided by Southern is nothing short of scandalous. We need the government to stop dragging its feet and put in place a clear plan for this franchise to be transferred as soon as possible.”

In an appearance before Lambeth council yesterday, Alex Foulds, GTR’s deputy chief operating officer, apologised for the delays. He also admitted that a public campaign by GTR asking passengers to urge RMT to accept a GTR offer, which was overwhelmingly opposed by passengers, had been “a mistake”.

(Image c. RMT)

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