Southern drivers' strike to go ahead after court ruling

Southern rail conductor Image copyright Getty Images

A series of strikes by train drivers on the Southern rail network will go ahead next week after a judge backed planned action by the Aslef union.

The High Court rejected an argument from Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), that the action would breach customers' rights.

The decision paved the way for the first of three strike days to be held on Tuesday.

Southern warned the strike would lead to no services on most routes.

The RMT union, which has been staging strikes since the summer over the role of conductors, is also planning further stoppages either side of Christmas.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink, said the strikes would breach customers' rights

Aslef, which described the court ruling as a victory, said GTR's action was a waste of "shareholders' money, passengers' money and taxpayers' money".

General secretary Mick Whelan said: "Now the company should do the right thing and sit down with us and negotiate - properly, sensibly and in good faith - to do a deal for the benefit of passengers, staff and, yes, the company, just like ScotRail did with us earlier this year."

A spokesman for GTR said: "Naturally we're disappointed with today's decision. The judge said that such unprecedented strike action by Aslef would cause massive disruption to the public.

"We brought this action for the benefit of our passengers.

"The judge has given us permission to go to the Court of Appeal which we will now consider with our legal team."

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Southern had argued the consequences of the strike were a breach of its customers' rights to travel under EU law.

But the judge, Sir Michael Burton, said that while the strikes would cause massive disruption to the public - with trains carrying up to 500,000 passengers a day being cancelled - they had been sanctioned by a lawful ballot and did not unlawfully restrict freedom of movement provisions.

He added that GTR had made a "novel and persuasive attempt" to get round Parliamentary immunity given to unions, but "it must fail".

Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, said the government should now look at other "remedies" to counter "unjustifiable" strike action.

"If that requires a change in the law, I believe members of parliament will be very willing to consider it."

Southern planned rail strike dates:

00:01 Tuesday 6 December to 23:59 Thursday 8 December (RMT)

00:01: Tuesday 13 December to 23:59 Wednesday 14 December (Aslef)

00:01 Friday 16 December to 23:59: Friday 16 December (Aslef)

00:01 Monday 19 December to 23:59 Tuesday 20 December (RMT)

00:01 Saturday 31 December to 23:59 Monday 2 January (RMT)

00:01 Monday 9 January to 23:59: Saturday 14 January (Aslef)

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