Eastbourne commuters face travel chaos, as train drivers are to strike next month.
Members of the Aslef Union won’t work any contractual hours from Tuesday 6 December, with strike action being held on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December, Friday 16 December and then again in the New Year from Monday 9 January to Saturday 14 January.
Their members voted overwhelmingly to take the action in the ongoing row over the introduction of driver only trains. Conductors with the RMT Union have walked out in the dispute many times, saying the operation would jeopardise passenger safety – something Southern firmly denies.
“We have done our level best to try and reach a sensible, workable compromise with Southern in the interests of passengers as well as staff,’ said Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan. ‘We have always been happy to talk to the company, and we have always believed it is, or should be, possible to do a deal – as we did with ScotRail in Scotland – but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate. The company – and I see the DfT’s fingerprints all over this dispute, it’s as if the DfT is the ventriloquist and Southern the ventriloquist’s dummy – doesn’t want to talk, it wants to bully; it doesn’t want to discuss, it wants to impose. Because it doesn’t care about passenger safety, only about profits for shareholders.”
Responding to Aslef's announcement of the latest strike dates, Charles Horton, Govia Thameslink Railway's Chief Executive Officer, said, "Passengers will be rightly furious that these wholly unnecessary and unjustified strikes have been called in the run up to Christmas and in the New Year. The travelling public has endured months of misery and seen their work and family lives turned upside down by RMT's futile industrial action with conductors. Now Aslef and the drivers want to compound that suffering by joining the fray in launching more pointless strikes.
"It’s perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train, and that's how a third of the trains up and down the country - with the full agreement and support of Aslef - already operate today.
"These strikes will have a devastating impact on the South East economy and people's everyday lives which will bring Southern to a standstill.
"We urge the union to get round the table with us to continue our talks and resolve their dispute without causing further unnecessary grief to passengers.
"Passengers have made it crystal clear that they want an end to these strikes. Both the RMT and Aslef should take stock and listen, if not to us, then at least to the travelling public. Let's end these strikes now without further suffering."