Rail misery could be about to intensify for commuters across East Sussex.
Southern’s new reduced timetable, which sees 341 services a day axed, comes into force today (11 July). For those wanting to get from Eastbourne to Seaford, they’ll likely be forced to get a bus from Lewes onwards, as most trains on that line are being replaced.
MPs and council leaders, as well as passengers are putting the pressure on for Southern to be stripped of its franchise.
However, the company, which has been locked in a long-running dispute with the RMT Union over the introduction of driver-only trains, seems to have the backing of the Rail Minister, Claire Perry, who said, “GTR’s robust ‘battle plan’ timetable will ensure passengers can get to work and home reliably. Under this plan, 85 per cent of services will run and passengers will have much-needed certainty about their journeys, more staff will be available during peak hours, and the system will be able to recover more quickly from any disruption.
“This is now a big test for the RMT as to whether it continues this unjustified dispute and stop inflicting chaos on passengers’ lives. I urge them to resolve this unacceptable situation as a matter of urgency.”
This has further angered the Union. Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said, "It is outrageous for the minister to claim that front line Southern rail staff are not on the side of the passengers. Unlike Ms Perry, her officials and the GTR bosses it is our members out there at the sharp end trying to deliver a service against a background of gross managerial incompetence and rank profiteering. The disgraceful slurs, abuse and lies being heaped on our members by the company and their cheerleaders in Government have to stop.
"Let us be clear. The axing of nearly 350 trains a day by GTR is a crisis measure designed to rig their appalling performance figures. The fewer trains you run, the fewer will be delayed and the better your headline performance statistics will look. That is a fix of epic proportions and the public will not be fooled by this chicanery.
"The new timetable also means that the vast reduction in services, approved by the Government, will leave remaining trains dangerously overcrowded and it will be our members at the sharp end left to manage the safety of the passengers while the Minister and her GTR colleagues are tucked away in their plush offices.
"Despite the timetable fix this remains a franchise in terminal meltdown and RMT will continue to fight for safety-critical jobs, safe services and public ownership and control."
Last week, the issue was brought before the Transport Select Committee, where Pevensey MP, Huw Merriman implied that the Department of Transport should intervene to help bring an end to the dispute and give passengers a service they can rely on. Eastbourne Buzz has put this to the Department of Transport, but they did not wish to comment on this issue, saying it is not their place to make guarantees beyond the length of Southern’s franchise.