Five days of misery hits Eastbourne commuters from today (8 August).
Southern Rail conductors are walking out on strike in the ongoing row over the introduction of driver-only trains, which are due to come into force later this month.
The RMT Union and Southern Rail’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway have been engulfed in a bitter war of words for months, which has seen passengers pay the price, with delays, cancellation and strike action.
In Eastbourne, the latest round of strikes has been welcomed with anger and frustration, particularly with it falling at the same time as Airbourne, a time which is vital to the town’s economy and tourism industry.
Leader of the Borough Council, Councillor David Tutt said, “The whole thing is a complete farce. There are times when the Government should intervene and times when they shouldn’t. This is one of those times when they should step in. The fact that this strike hits Airbourne week is disastrous for the whole town and for the visitors wanting to come here for our fantastic air show.”
A spokesman for Eastbourne Hospitality Association said, “Eastbourne Hospitality Association are disgusted that the town is being let down by the railway especially this week as it is one of the busiest weeks of the year and all business will feel the impact of their decision.”
The two sides met last week at ACAS in an attempt to find a solution to their dispute, but after three days and neither side accepting the other’s offer, the talks collapsed.
Polegate MP, Maria Caulfield has previously raised the issue of the train situation on Southern in Parliament, calling for the Rail Minister to step in. Commenting on the latest wave of strikes Maria said, “I am very disappointed that the five day strike is going ahead while negotiations between the unions and Southern Rail are ongoing. Southern have put on the table reassurances that there will always be a second person on each train This is on top of the commitments already made to the RMT, which include: No compulsory redundancies, no reduction in salary, no compulsory location moves, a guaranteed, above-inflation pay-rise for the next two years, an increase in the existing ‘shift premia’ (which is additional salary paid to staff for working voluntary overtime) to 20% over the next three years and a promise to increase the number of back-up staff to help manage unplanned disruption – thereby ensuring the railway is staffed more in the future than it is today.
“The Government have forced both sides round the table with ACAS to try and resolve this dispute and so I would ask both sides to consider the terrible disruption their actions are having on ordinary people's lives and resolve it as soon as possible.”
This week’s walk out has seen Southern stop all trains between Eastbourne and Hastings, leaving villagers in Pevensey and Westham stranded if they rely on the train for their transport. A limited service will be in operation between Eastbourne and Brighton, as Southern aim to run two thirds of their already reduced emergency timetable. Stagecoach Buses say they intend to run extra services between Eastbourne and Hastings and Eastbourne and Polegate during the strike.