Conductors working for Southern Rail at Eastbourne Railway Station, will be on strike from 4.30am-6pm today (18 May).
Members of the RMT Union are taking industrial action in the ongoing dispute over Southern’s plans to introduce driver-only trains.
The union believes removing guards on trains would have a detrimental effect on passenger safety – a fear Southern strongly deny.
Many services are expected to be hit by today’s strike, with some services cancelled, including the Eastbourne to Ashford International. Check if your journey is changed here.
Southern tickets are being accepted on Brighton & Hove bus services between Eastbourne, Seaford, Newhaven,Brighton and Shoreham.
Travellers are being reminded that non-folding bikes won’t be permitted on trains today.
Southern Railway say the RMT has refused to negotiate and say that since December, it has met with the union about the changes eight times and written to them repeatedly.
Dyan Crowther, GTR Chief Operating Officer, said,
"Despite repeated efforts over six months, the RMT Union seem unwilling to talk properly about this. Our door remains open to talks but they seem determined to inflict another day of misery on Southern commuters. It's time for them to come back to the negotiating table, and talk sensibly about these changes.
“The only thing that changes is the new conductors will no longer close the doors, a task that passes to the driver with the aid of CCTV. This will cost no-one their jobs, and frees up staff on board trains to better serve passengers."
The RMT Union has carried out a poll of Southern passengers, which found that almost three quarters (73%) are concerned about the safety of travelling on trains that no longer had an on-board train guard and a similar percentage believe Southern Rail should not allow trains to operate without at least one member of staff assisting passengers and protecting their safety (70%).
The majority of Southern Rail weekly users (61%) would oppose the plans to remove guards from the service so that it became a driver only operation. This number increases to 69% of those who use the service every day.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said,
“It is clear from the polling evidence that the public support RMT’s safety case for the retention of the guards and an end to the outrageous profiteering on Southern services which sees these vital services used as nothing more than a cash-cow by French state railways to subsidise their operations over the Channel.
“Our members have been backed into a corner by this aggressive and unpopular company and have had no option whatsoever but to fight to defend the safety-critical role of the guard on these rammed-out and unreliable Southern routes. That is why we are striking on Wednesday. This dispute is a battle between the very basic principles of rail safety and the relentless drive by Southern/GTR to milk the franchise for every penny they can get.
“It is scandalous that the company have blocked attempts to reach a negotiated settlement and it’s about time they stopped the bullying and the intimidation of their safety-critical guards and started serious and meaningful talks with the union.”
Southern also responded to RMT polling which showed that passengers want staff to remain on trains.
Dyan Crowther, GTR Chief Operating Officer, said,
“We wholeheartedly agree with our passengers who want staff to remain on trains and that’s exactly why as many services will have staff on board as they do today. And our on-board staff will have a better role which better meets the needs of passengers, securing their valued position on the railway for the long-term.”
The dispute has reached Parliament, with MPs having tabled a motion in parliament saying that at “a time of record growth in passenger numbers passengers want more staff, including a guard on every train and keeping ticket offices open.”
Southern have set out how the change to the conductor role will mean fewer train cancellations in future:
“At present, during periods of service disruption conductors are tied to specific routes and services. The new on-board role will be more flexible and be able to go anywhere on our network. This means Southern will be able to allocate staff to trains more flexibly, and significantly reduce the perennial problem of train cancellations due to conductors not being available. Under this arrangement, the unprecedented high level of conductor sickness in recent days would not have forced us to cancel so many of our passenger services.”
The RMT has hit back at Southern’s "deliberate campaign of misinformation" over staff shortages as more services were cancelled yesterday (17 May).
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“There has been a disgraceful campaign of misinformation by GTR over the staffing crisis on Southern Trains that has led to more services being cancelled today.
“The hard fact is that this company does not employ enough staff to fill the rosters and is carrying significant levels of vacancies. They do that because it saves them money and allows them to pump up the profits which can then be shipped across the Channel to subsidise their operations in France.
“For Southern/GTR to try and turn the blame for this staffing crisis onto the union is ludicrous when the public can see clearly that the fault lies squarely with this penny-pinching outfit who will stop at nothing to fleece this franchise, and its passengers, for every penny that they can.”
Southern expects to run around two-thirds of its 2,100 services today during the RMT conductor strike. However, there will be a significant impact for the whole of the day affected, with no service on several routes and only a limited service between approximately 07.30 and 18.00 on others (although Southern will extend the service hours if possible).
Please see attached a letter from Charles Horton CEO regarding tomorrow's RMT strike action. pic.twitter.com/vpfHjnE7dm— SouthernRailUK (@SouthernRailUK) May 17, 2016