Polegate’s MP has announced she will be calling for Southern Railway to be stripped of its franchise.
Maria Caulfield is meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport this afternoon, after seeing the revised timetable put out by the operator this morning.
The temporary measure put in place by the rail firm will see 341 services axed a day and buses replacing most trains between Lewes and Seaford.
Southern Passenger Services Director Alex Foulds said, “We are introducing this temporary weekday revised timetable with reluctance but it is the best thing we can do for our passengers who have been suffering daily cancellations ever since this dispute with the RMT began, and for which we are sincerely sorry.
“It should give the majority of our passengers a better, more consistent service that they can plan around.
“Whilst our first priority is our passengers, we also understand that this has been a difficult time for our staff. Conductors already know that their jobs are guaranteed, that there will be no reduction in salary and that the independent rail safety body has confirmed our plans are safe.
“Now, after listening to our staff, we have also decided to restore leisure travel benefits. All of this, we believe, should help our staff feel able to return to work and so reduce the issues causing the current high level of train cancellations.”
However, Maria Caulfield is angered by the cuts to the Lewes to Seaford service and believes the Government should have been consulted first.
Southern cannot be allowed to just cut the Seaford branch line with no consultation with Gov. Will be asking for franchise removal.— Maria Caulfield MP (@mariacaulfield) July 5, 2016
Govia Thameslink Rail, which runs Southern, have been locked in a bitter dispute with the RMT Union for months over their plans to introduce driver-only trains next month. The row has seen several strike actions and the company claims they’re having to cancel many trains owing to an abnormally high volume of staff sickness days.
The RMT has responded to today’s new timetable. General Secretary Mick Cash said, “This is crisis management on Britain's biggest rail franchise, a franchise that is now in terminal meltdown. The continuing attempt to blame this gross mismanagement on the front line staff is a cynical and cowardly ploy by a company who have chosen to wage war on their passengers and workforce alike.
“The managers at GTR pay themselves fat salaries and bonuses, in reward for failure on an epic scale, while the staff on the trains and platforms are left to take the blame for the bosses’ incompetence.
“This so called emergency timetable enables Govia to cancel 15% of their trains and rig their appalling performance figures to protect their profits.
“Instead of conniving with this scandal the Government should fire GTR and immediately instruct the legal, public-sector fall-back operation to take over.”
The strike action was last week condemned in Government by the Prime Minister and Eastbourne’s MP Caroline Ansell is also calling for the union members to return to work as normal, saying that passengers have had enough.
Southern Rail also say they want to see a return to normal working practices with Alex Foulds saying, “Once again, we urge RMT officials to relax their unbending attitude to our plans and to step over the line in the sand they have drawn opposing any extension of driver-only train operation.”
The new temporary timetable is due to come into force next Monday (11 July).