Limited buses to replace Southern trains during strikes

Southern trains
Southern trains

A limited number of buses are set to replace Southern trains on some routes during next week’s strike dates.

Train drivers’ union ASLEF is due to hold walkouts on Tuesday January 10, Wednesday January 11, and Friday January 13 in its dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway over plans to introduce driver-only operation on Southern services.

No Southern trains ran at all on three ASLEF strike days in December and during next week’s walkouts GTR is advising people to work from home or remotely if they can, stagger journeys if possible, to only travel if it is essential, and allow plenty of extra time for journeys.

Replacement buses will link: Uckfield with Tunbridge Wells via Crowborough, Eastbourne with Hastings, Bexhill to Hastings, Horsham to Dorking, Hastings to Ashford, Chichester to Havant, East Grinstead to Gatwick, and Seaford to Lewes calling at all stations.

Thameslink and Gatwick Express services will continue to operate and coach operator National Express is laying on extra services between London and Brighton.

Angie Doll, Southern’s passenger service director, said: “There will be significant disruption and hardship next week caused by these pointless and unnecessary strikes. With this package of measures, we are putting in place a very limited number of alternative options to help people with essential travel needs get where they need to be.

“Unfortunately, there is no practical way we could replace 2,000-plus trains we run each day with buses, but what we are doing is providing transport to link some passengers into other operators’ stations where services are running normally.

“These buses will run from a small number of stations and space will be very limited, so we are asking those who don’t need to travel, or who have a viable alternative, to leave the space for those who have no other option. Anyone who does travel should expect to queue, plan for longer journeys and realise the service they join will be exceptionally busy.

“We are massively grateful to all the operators who are helping us in our efforts to keep passengers moving.

“This strike is futile – drivers are now operating the doors on over 75 per cent of our trains and our on-board supervisors have moved into their new roles. It is now time the union move on too, and join us in delivering a modern railway for everyone.”

Earlier today it was announced that ASLEF was halving next week’s walkout from six days to three, but it is now also due to strike on Tuesday January 24; Wednesday January 25 and Friday January 27.

Mick Whelan, general secretary at ASLEF, said they were taking a ‘longer-term view of this trade dispute’.

He added: “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 DOO [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.”

A spokesman for Southern 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.”

Both ASLEF and the RMT union, which represents conductors due to be moved to the role of on-board supervisors, have objected to the changes on safety grounds, raising concerns about the loss of a second safety critical member of staff on trains.

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