Southern rail timetable 'loses 350 trains a day'

Southern train Image copyright PA
Image caption The amended timetable is due to be published this week

Southern Rail is to axe 350 services a day under an amended timetable drawn up in response to ongoing disruption, a union has claimed.

The RMT said it was given the figure at a meeting with parent firm Govia Thameslink (GTR).

GTR said its amended timetable would be a temporary measure until staffing returned to normal.

The government said the current situation was unacceptable and it was aware changes were being considered.

Industrial action by RMT members and high levels of staff sickness have contributed to disruption of Southern services from the south coast into London.

'Cowardly ploy'

Union general secretary Mick Cash said the government had given GTR permission to introduce the emergency timetable.

He said: "This latest savage attack on passenger services by GTR is nothing to do with staff sickness and everything to do with gross mismanagement of this franchise and the failure to employ enough guards and drivers to fill the current rosters and diagrams.

"The continuing attempt to blame the front-line workforce for this crisis is a cynical and cowardly ploy that will not wash with the travelling public."

Image caption Southern rail managers faced passengers at a public meeting in Hove

The BBC understands the Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes and Tonbridge to Redhill services will be completely removed, and trains will be removed from the Littlehampton to Portsmouth & Southsea, Brighton to Southampton and Brighton to Seaford services.

'Fainting commuters'

Passengers have staged protests over the ongoing disruption amid reports of some London to Brighton commutes taking three or four hours.

Some people say they have received written warnings for consistent lateness at work, according to Labour MP Peter Kyle.

One Edenbridge commuter who wanted to remain anonymous, said his train to London ran hourly. A cancellation led to an hour's wait and then "two trains in one", while eight-carriage services could also be shortened to four.

"Honestly, it's not safe," he said. "It's rush hour but you feel like you've done a day's work before you get to the office.

"The conditions we face each day are inhumane - commuters packed on to the point people are fainting and falling over."

Image caption Commuters have staged protests over ongoing disruption

A GTR spokesman said: "The timetable recognises that the present level of service has not been acceptable and will aim to give passengers a more predictable service they can plan around."

The company has not confirmed the union's claims that 350 services will go.

According to Southern's website, it currently provides 2,242 services each weekday, 2,076 on Saturdays and 1,242 on Sundays.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We are clear that GTR passengers are not getting the service they deserve and the current situation is unacceptable.

"We are aware that GTR is considering some changes in order to strengthen their timetable in the face of ongoing disruption so as many services as possible can run.

"When this happens, operators are contractually obliged to inform us in advance, but these decisions are taken only when there is no other solution, and this does not amount to the government giving permission."

The dispute is over the introduction of driver-only operated trains and a change in conductors' roles.

Analysis by Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent

We know a timetable is coming in and Southern will announce it officially on Tuesday because the company will go before the transport select committee.

But the unions have put a number on it, they're saying 350 cancellations a day. That figure is unconfirmed by the company.

Why are Southern doing that? They say: they haven't got enough drivers, they haven't got enough conductors, there are too many people taking days off sick and this is the way they can offer a better service.

The cancellation of 350 trains a day sounds like a huge number but, as people who use that line will know, passengers have been dealing with that level of cancellations every day. It is little more than "normal service" as far as they are concerned.

Image caption The RMT has staged a series of walkouts

The RMT union has denied claims high levels of staff sickness is unofficial industrial action.

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion's Green Party MP, said the government should be getting GTR around a table with the union and "not simply rolling over and letting yet more cancellations happen".

She said: "This latest debacle over the fact that this company has been unable to resolve this dispute is just the latest in a whole series of debacles. This has been going on for over a year.

"Over a year ago, the rail minister told us this line was flashing red in her department; that this was really serious.

"Months and months and months go by and instead of things getting better they are getting very much worse."

Southern has said the new timetable will be published on Tuesday.

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