England

RMT call to Transport Secretary over Southern rail 'chaos'

Southern rail conductor Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The RMT will walk out on Friday and Saturday in a row about changes to guards' roles

Union bosses have accused trouble-hit Southern rail of "hoarding profits" as passengers face disruption and further strike action.

Speaking after "chaotic" disruption this week, the RMT accused the firm of failing to invest in its services.

Southern said the union had "got it wrong" and the firm "made a loss last year and is not expected to make any profit this year either".

It apologised for delays caused by a damaged track on Tuesday.

The company said services on the Brighton to London line were cancelled or delayed after an electrical fault burned a hole in the rail near Wivelsfield.

'Lethal overcrowding'

Union chiefs have called for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to intervene in "deep-seated problems" on the network.

General Secretary Mick Cash said: "The fact remains that if the company wasn't hoarding £100m in profits that cash could be invested in renewals and maintenance."

He said RMT members on trains and stations were left to deal with Tuesday's disruption and "the anger of passengers and the lethal overcrowding".

He added: "It is time for the Transport Secretary to get out of his bunker, stop patronising staff and the public and get round the table with the unions and the company to sort the deep-seated problems."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Southern reinstated a full timetable on Monday

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said "Union bosses have continually rejected a deal that ensures that no one will lose their job and that on-board staff will carry on delivering safe and more reliable rail services."

She also called on the union and Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to resolve the dispute.

The Secretary of State for Transport and the Rail Minister have "made the Southern dispute a priority", she said.

She said meetings had been held with GTR bosses, the Go Ahead Group and Network Rail.

"The changes GTR is proposing will modernise services and provide better journeys for passengers," she said.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Commuters have faced several strikes in the long-running dispute between Southern and the RMT

RMT strike dates:

  • 00:01 Friday 4 November to 23:59 Saturday 5 November
  • 00:01 Tuesday 22 November to 23:59 Wednesday 23 November
  • 00:01 Tuesday 6 December to 23:59 Thursday 8 December

Southern reinstated a full timetable on Monday after three months of reduced services.

In July, at the height of the dispute with the RMT, Southern introduced a temporary timetable to help cope with staff absences, which compounded problems caused by several strikes.

In the Commons, Conservative MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield said the past 18 months had been "hell" for commuters and a one-hour journey took over four hours on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Grayling had been working with Southern and Network Rail, and the government had also invested £20m to tackle "the breakdown" on the Southern network.

She said: "I recognise the degree of concern about this."

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