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Rail passengers face travel chaos as 48-hour strike by Southern staff gets underway

PUBLISHED: 08:22 13 December 2016

Southern trains

Southern trains

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A last-ditch legal bid to prevent a walkout by drivers has failed

Thousands of passengers faced disruption on Tuesday morning after a last-minute bid to prevent a walk-out by staff on the Southern Rail network failed.

Industrial action by rail drivers’ union Aslef means all of Southern’s 2,242 weekday services were cancelled, causing the worst disruption for more than 20 years.

Other rail services were expected to be crowded as commuters sought alternative means of travel, with Southeastern expecting a surge in passenger numbers.

Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Rail yesterday had a last-ditch bid to prevent the strike action overturned by the Court of Appeal, meaning walkouts will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week.

The long-running stand-off is centred on the train operator’s plans to introduce driver-only trains, which is opposed by unions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said his union’s Southern drivers were standing “shoulder to shoulder” with their Aslef colleagues.

“This strike action is wholly the responsibility of a government and a company that have sought to bulldoze through changes that are ill-conceived, finance-led and fraught with danger,” he said.

“RMT remembers only too well the words of top Government transport official Peter Wilkinson who told Southern passengers he wanted a punch-up with the unions, that train drivers were muppets and that he would starve our members back to work.

“That was the top Government rail official making it clear he was hell-bent on confrontation and it is that position which has led us to today’s shutdown.”

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