Five-day walkout commences:
The disastrous consequences of privatised railway has led to calls for the entire network and in particular Southern Rail to pass quickly back into Public ownership just as Jeremy Corbyn recently made the call. This is the biggest and most significant rail strike for 30 years or more.
Teresa May has occupied the space of the neo-liberal chorus of maintaining or switching private ownership of franchises instead of the public demand that it should be re-nationalised. The consequences for the economy in the South and connection to the Capital and southern cities are big political stakes in this post Brexit world, demanding that infrastructure must be bolstered and productivity increased. The connection with the airport at Gatwick is of key importance.
The prime minister “strongly condemns” a five-day strike disrupting services for hundreds of thousands of Southern passengers, Downing Street has said.
Hundreds of trains have been cancelled in a row over plans for drivers, not conductors, to operate carriage doors.It is obvious that taking away this responsibility is to reduce staff and “cut costs”. The idea that driver control over doors rather than guards lowers safety and will add time not reduce it undermines the notion that labour is a cost. The duties of guards to properly authorise train movement rather than act as passenger waiters and waitresses is a nonsense. to their job description.
The RMT union claimed “rock-solid support” and said the central issue was safety.
Theresa May in saying the action was “only going to cause more disruption and misery” has admitted that the private franchise is already a dismal failure and if the company was to be taken into Public ownership the workers could get on with their jobs properly and there would be no need for such action.
946 trains so far have been cancelled
.A spokeswoman for Southern Rail admitted 946 of its normal 2,242 services would be cancelled each day during the stoppage.
The RMT has held a series of one-day strikes since April after balloting 393 members.
Southern is the main operator for Sussex and east Surrey with services running to London, Kent, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire. Last month, it brought in a reduced timetable in response to continued cancellations and delays, blaming issues with crew availability.
A rail users group in east Surrey blamed Southern Rail for, “another heavy slap in the face for poor, tired and frustrated commuters”.
The situation is exactly the same today as it was five months ago. The union will not budge on having a safety-qualified guard on every train that currently has one. It will not discuss whether the driver or guard closes the train doors without that promise.
Things will get a lot worse. More than 1,000 platform staff are currently balloting for strike action over the closure of some ticket offices and a new role of “station host”.
At the same time, drivers on Southern and Gatwick Express are also holding a separate strike ballot. Those results will be known by the end of the month.
Southern still has a chronic shortage of train crew because of the poor terms and conditions of employment. That is why it has an emergency timetable, cancelling 340 trains a day even when there is no strike. And that emergency timetable will continue afterwards.
Commuters are already losing jobs, losing salary, losing holiday and being unable to get home to their families all because of poor management.
Corinne Graehame is a disabled passenger who uses a mobility scooter and often travels on Southern.Corinee Graehame is a disabled train user from Hastings.
She said: “It’s very hard to get on a packed train when people are already sitting in disabled seats and staff don’t want to help with a ramp.
“I have been told to just sit in my scooter, if I can get on a train.”
People have had delays and cancellations and had to try to finish work early to get home but meany simply cannot get to work.
The tide has turned against the privatised companies and commuters want Southern Rail re-nationalised.
Southern rail couldn’t even find some buses to put as a replacement service.
There is a a collapse emerging in Public relations The Campaign for Better Transport and a Southern passenger group, the Association of British Commuters, plan to march from London Victoria station to the Department for Transport on Wednesday afternoon to hand in a “six-foot letter”.
It calls on the new Rail Minister Paul Maynard to “listen to passengers, freeze fares and pay compensation”.
RMT have manned large picket lines and one is opposite Victoria Station in London
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of Govia Thameslink and the government who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern.
”Our fight is with the company and the government who have dragged this franchise into total meltdown. We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains.”
The RMT has called on GTR to match terms offered by ScotRail in a similar dispute.