Redhill rail users' bid to charter train on strike days fails

Rail users at a station
Image caption Passengers across the South East have been severely affected by strike action

A group of rail users have failed in an attempt to charter a train from Surrey to London on strike days.

Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users Association (RRDRUA) began talks with the Train Chartering Company about a service from Redhill to Victoria.

Commuter Antony Simm said they simply had to get to work during the strikes planned by unions on Southern services.

But the group's idea stalled when it was told no driver or train was available for a service.

Mr Simm had hoped to run one return service a day on strike days but said the charter company was concerned about the "short notice".

Simon Pielow, co-owner of Train Chartering Company, said: "Although it was theoretically possible and we believed Network Rail would support it, we were unable to find a train or a driver to charter the service."

'Horrific service'

The trip would have cost about £60 per person with the number of tickets limited and no standing room allowed, Mr Simm added.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: "Britain's railways are open to all and so long as the relevant competencies and safety checks are done and cleared then we would welcome any train operator onto our network."

Mr Pielow of the Train Chartering Company said he did not know why a train and driver could not be found but said the request was received at short notice.

The rail users' group has not given up on finding a solution and is now actively looking into other options, including a coach service.

Mr Simm said: "Service has been horrific for a whole year but when there are no trains at all that is a whole different ball game. A lot of commuters have jobs they can't not go to."

He added: "I just wish [all sides] would all get together and sort the problem out. As rail users we do not have a voice but we are the ones who are most affected."

'Fabricated nonsense'

Meanwhile, drivers' union Aslef has criticised Southern trains for cancelling several services from Eastbourne on Saturday.

The union, whose members have agreed a ban on working overtime, claimed the company was blaming the industrial action with Aslef saying there were drivers and staff available to run the services.

Southern said the union's claims were "absolute fabricated nonsense" and the company was trying to provide "the best possible service under very challenging circumstances".

Southern planned rail strike dates:

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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