As trains in and out of Eastbourne continue to be threatened by disruption, the RMT Union is accusing Govia Thamelink Railway (GTR) of deliberately cancelling services.
The Union claims GTR, which runs Southern, are pulling services unnecessarily and blaming it on staff. They also say they have ‘proof’ that this is the case, owing to a dispute between a passenger and the company on social media.
In a letter to Southern MD Charles Horton, the RMT draws attention to a tweet last month, asking why the 16.46 London Bridge to Tattenham Corner had been cancelled. The response was that it was owing to there being no conductor available, but the line is a driver-only one, so further information was requested by the passenger. This time Southern replied that it was due to there being no driver available.
The letter also claims that on 1 June, the 7.10am Brighton to Lewes service was cancelled owing to staff shortages, even though a guard and driver were present and ready to work.
A Southern spokesperson said:
"Both of these cases were nothing more than simple human error.
"In one, a train was cancelled because we wrongly thought the crew were not available. By the time the crew arrived for the service, it was too late to reinstate it. In the other instance, an incorrect explanation was inadvertently given as the reason behind a cancellation.
"Both of these mistakes are regrettable, but must be seen in the context of unprecedented levels of staff sickness resulting in more than 80 train cancellations each day, and putting pressure on the staff who are at work.
"The accusation that we are deliberately cancelling services is quite simply ludicrous."
However, the RMT doesn’t stop there. It says on Friday (3 June) the service went into meltdown owing to a series of breakdowns in the fleet – something it says is down to ‘penny-pinching’ by the GTR.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT will not tolerate the disgraceful attempts to blame the current operational crisis at Southern/GTR on the front-line staff when the responsibility lies with those at the top and their gross mismanagement of this basket-case franchise.
“The company are caught our red-handed today cancelling services that were fully staffed and blaming the guards for the cancellation of services that don’t even have guards on board. That is conclusive proof that the company are engineering the current shambles so that they can knock lumps out of their own staff. They are an absolute disgrace.
“Southern should stop the dirty tricks and start talking with us in a serious and responsible manner.”