COUNTY NEWS: MPs to meet transport secretary to discuss planned rail strike

MP Nick Herbert with Rail Minister Claire Perry last year
MP Nick Herbert with Rail Minister Claire Perry last year

Sussex MPs have called an urgent meeting with the transport secretary today to discuss the rail strike planned for next week.

Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Southern franchise, has been embroiled in a row with rail union RMT over the future role of conductors, leading to industrial action in April and May.

Since the dispute began high levels of staff sickness has led to constant delays and cancellations.

Following the announcement of a further strike plannned for Tuesday June 21, Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert is leading a delegation of Sussex MPs to meet the Transport Secretary today (Wednesday June 15).

Mr Herbert said: “The RMT strike next week and ongoing levels of staff ‘sickness’ are disruptive and totally unjustified.

“This industrial action has nothing to do with safety, no jobs will be lost and pay will not be cut. There will still be staff on most trains in addition to the drivers, it’s just that they won’t be responsible for opening the doors, which is already the case on many Southern trains anyway.

“Some problems over the past year have been out of Southern’s control, such as infrastructure issues including the London Bridge upgrade, while others have been their fault, such as the failure to recruit enough drivers which they are slowly putting right. I’m the first to say that Southern should be held to account for their failures.

“But let’s be clear: the current major disruption to services which is infuriating my constituents is principally the fault of the unions, and it is they who should be called out.

“They are massively inconveniencing the public while Southern takes the blame, but it is the RMT’s strikes and the mysterious levels of staff sickness which are the real cause of problems now.

“I have been fierce in my criticism of GTR/Southern, and still believe that if they continue to fail to deliver the improvements they promised a year ago then they should be stripped of their franchise. “But the current problems are mostly being caused by the unions, and it’s time to say so. They should put passengers first, call off the strike, stop their cynical sickness claims and return to the negotiating table.”

He has been working closely with other Sussex MPs including Mid Sussex’s Sir Nicholas Soames and Horsham’s Jeremy Quin to raise the concerns of passengers, who have contacted them to express their ‘fury’ at delays and cancellations affecting services in the last few weeks.

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