Anyone hoping to get from Eastbourne to London Victoria on the trains today (10 December), is facing an uphill struggle.
Southern are advising passengers to go via Brighton or Lewes, where they can get a connecting service, blaming the overtime ban in place by Aslef drivers preventing a normal service from being provided, even though other industrial action is over.
A Southern spokesman said, “Drivers working overtime is standard practice in the industry. It allows us to manage our people flexibly to ensure the most efficient railway possible. Withdrawing this has a profound effect and we want to warn our passengers that our services will be severely reduced and disrupted every day Aself's unwarranted action continues, and not just on strike days.
“We are truly sorry about the months of misery our passengers have suffered. We understand the impact this unnecessary dispute has had on individuals, communities and the regional economy.
“No one wants an end to these disputes more than us.”
However, a lack of staff being blamed for disrupted services today is being strongly disputed by both the RMT and Aslef Unions, who say both guards and drivers are ready and waiting for work at Eastbourne Railway Station. Eastbourne Buzz has seen staff timetables, which have numerous services crossed out.
Mick Cash from the RMT Union said, "Once again Southern Rail are lying through their teeth over the cause of today's disruption to services and once again they are trying to lay the blame on their frontline staff for their own gross managerial incompetence.”
An Aslef spokesman said, "There are drivers sitting around in mess rooms on the Southern region today waiting to drive the trains that Southern cancelled. It is clear to us that Southern is deliberately cancelling services and failing passengers in a desperate bid to make a political point. It is utterly perverse that in its efforts to blame the trade unions, Southern is yet again letting down the people they are trying to serve."
Former Eastbourne MP, Stephen Lloyd has also heard from staff this morning saying they’re ready and waiting to work, even though trains to London aren’t running. He’s told Eastbourne Buzz, “This is only an allegation, I cannot prove this, but if it is true, then this is subterfuge done by Southern Rail, so that they can blame the staff for no trains. If that is the case, that’s an absolutely shocking allegation.
“I shall be writing to the Secretary of State for the Department of Transport because I think the DFT have their fingers are all over this - they need to get it sorted. I shall also be writing to the Chief Executive of Southern Rail. I repeat, if this is proven to be true, that there were plenty of staff and there could’ve been trains running from Eastbourne to Victoria today and Southern Rail are lying, then someone should be sacked or the senior manager should resign on the spot. It’s a shocking allegation.”
Further strike action by both the RMT and Aslef unions are planned for the coming weeks in the ongoing row over the introduction of driver-only trains. The unions believe they will compromise passenger safety, but Southern say this is an unwarranted fear.