Southern Railway strike cut to three days next week but more dates announced

PUBLISHED: 13:09 04 January 2017

Southern Railway dispute

Southern Railway dispute

Members of Aslef were due to walk out for six days from Monday in a bitter dispute over driver-only trains

Strikes by Southern Railway train drivers will now hit the company at the end of January as well as next week.

Members of Aslef were due to walk out for six days from Monday in a bitter dispute over driver-only trains.

The union changed the dates to January 10, 11 and 13 but announced three fresh strikes on January 24, 25 and 27.

Southern have announced replacement buses which will run as follows:

Hastings to Ashford (all stations); Uckfield and Crowborough: to and from Tunbridge Wells (for SouthEastern connections to and from London); Oxted: to and from Sevenoaks (for SouthEastern connections to and from London); and East Grinsted: to and from Gatwick Airport (for Gatwick Express/Thameslink connection to and from London).

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We are taking a longer-term view of this trade dispute. The company has not been prepared to move - it is simply going through the motions, turning up at Acas, as it did yesterday, and telling us that it intends to impose driver-only operation.

“We remain committed to a negotiated settlement, as was reached with ScotRail, but it is difficult to negotiate with people who are not prepared to be flexible.

“We still believe a deal can be done but we are, at the moment, a long way from that position.

“It is time for the company to come up with a genuine offer rather than carry on posturing.”

The union had reduced next week’s action out of consideration for how long the dispute will last and because of concerns from the public about the impact of a week-long stoppage.

Southern’s passengers, from Tonbridge and Ashford, have suffered months of disruption because of industrial action, staff shortages and other problems.

Aslef members are currently banning overtime, which is leading to services being cancelled or delayed every day.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is also embroiled in a dispute with Southern over changes to the role of conductors, which has led to a series of strikes.

Mr Whelan said Aslef members continued to have safety concerns about driver-only trains, claiming the union had raised issues which had been ignored.

A Southern spokesman said: “This is a cynical ploy to minimise the impact on Aslef’s drivers’ pay packets and maximises misery, disruption and hardship for passengers.

“Aslef’s move shows pure contempt for the travelling public and it still causes massive disruption over next week.

“These strikes are pointless and they should call the whole thing off and let common sense prevail.”

Rail minister Paul Maynard said: “Fewer strike days will still cause massive disruption for passengers. I urge Aslef to call off these wholly unnecessary strikes and come to the table for talks.

“This modern way of running trains has been safely used elsewhere in the UK for 30 years. There is no safety issue; the independent rail regulator has confirmed it is safe.

“We are investing record amounts in improving our railways and we need everyone in the rail industry to work together to deliver for passengers.”

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