Southern rail strikes: Fresh disruption as latest walkout begins

Southern train Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Commuters have faced several strikes in the bitter row between Southern and the RMT

Hundreds of commuters are facing fresh travel disruption in the latest strike by Southern rail workers.

The 48-hour strike comes a day after the RMT union announced there would be six days of strikes in the run-up to Christmas and over the new year.

It coincides with the Lewes Bonfire Night celebrations on Saturday, when no trains will stop in the town or at neighbouring stations after midday.

More action over the role of conductors is planned in the coming weeks.

The current stoppage, which began at midnight, had been due to start on Thursday but was postponed following a request from the British Legion as it clashed with London Poppy Day, where uniformed personnel collected money at Tube and railway stations.

Southern Rail strikes: Eight things you wanted to know

A bitter row over the introduction of driver-only operated (DOO) trains has led to months of delays and cancellations for passengers, with Southern saying the union had "caused misery and hardship to people's work and family lives".

The RMT has said it was left with "no choice" but to fight to retain a "safety critical" conductor, in addition to the driver, on all services.

RMT members have mounted picket lines at stations including Brighton and London Victoria.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The long-running dispute is over plans for drivers, instead of conductors, to operate train doors

Southern said there would be a restricted service over the two days, with some routes having no trains at all.

"We're sorry to our passengers that we won't be able to provide a full service because of the RMT's pointless and wholly unjustified strike action," the firm's passenger services director, Angie Doll, said.

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
  • 00:01 Thursday 22 December to 23:59 Saturday 24 December
  • 00:01 Saturday 31 December to 23:59 Monday 2 January

On Monday, members and supporters of the RMT protested outside the Houses of Parliament.

Announcing strike action over the festive period, RMT general secretary Mick Cash accused Southern and the government of "sheer pig-headedness", meaning members "are being forced to take further industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service".

A spokesman for Southern said the union had "hit a new low" and was "determined to cancel Christmas for the travelling public".

Image caption More than 30 different processions make their way through Lewes on Bonfire Night

Lewes bonfire impact

Two bus companies have stepped in to provide extra services to Lewes on Saturday.

Tom Druitt, from The Big Lemon bus company, said six coaches had been provided, which was "three times more than any other year", but added all the coaches were now sold out.

"That was pretty much all the vehicles we had available once we heard the strike was on," he said.

A spokeswoman for Brighton and Hove buses, which has provided nine extra buses to provide additional services between Brighton and Lewes, said: "There are more services going towards Lewes because we want to make sure any residents get home with no issue."

Mick Symes, from Lewes Bonfire Society, said members were "aghast" when they heard about the rail strike.

"We were expecting 35,000 people to come into Lewes by train, being as it's a Saturday," he said.

"It's a treble whammy. There are no trains, we are relying on the bus companies, and they are not even being allowed into the town."

Lewes District Council has said road closures will be in place around the town and the A26 will also be closed through the Cuilfail Tunnel as part of enhanced security measures.

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