Southern warns of 'severe' rail disruption after strike

Passengers waiting for a delayed service at London Victoria during a strike day on 13 December Image copyright EPA
Image caption A two-day walk out by train drivers ended at midnight

Services on the Southern rail network are being severely disrupted following a 48-hour strike by train drivers, the rail operator says.

The two-day walkout ended at midnight but all routes are expected to be affected throughout Thursday.

A reduced service is operating across the Southern network with no service on some routes due to the ongoing overtime ban by Aslef drivers.

Talks are being held at Acas to prevent further strikes, including on Friday.

Southern passenger services director Angie Doll said: "We will be working hard to run as many services as possible.

"But, regrettably, I have to warn passengers that services will be severely impacted, with reductions and cancellations across all routes."

Train disruption

There are no trains on some routes, including between East Croydon and Milton Keynes Central, and on the Gatwick Express between the airport and Brighton.

There are no direct trains between London and either Portsmouth or Southampton, or London and Reigate, with a very limited peak service between Brighton and London.

A bus service is in operation between Lewes and Seaford.

Services are expected to be disrupted during the evening as drivers prepare to take further strike action on Friday, Southern said.

The train operator said the overtime ban by the Aslef union would continue to have an impact on services every day.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Aslef has said a further strike planned for Friday will go ahead
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The drivers' strike stopped all Southern services and passengers were told not to travel

Talks are being held at conciliation service Acas in a bid to prevent further strikes.

Aslef said progress was made on Wednesday and talks have resumed on Thursday.

The union said a planned strike on Friday would still go ahead.

Both Aslef and the RMT union, which has been staging separate strikes since April, are planning further stoppages.

The two unions are in dispute over changes to guards' roles on driver-only operated (DOO) trains, which would see drivers opening and closing doors.

The RMT fears jobs cuts and has safety concerns, while Aslef has described DOO as "inherently unsafe".

Aslef's general secretary, Mick Whelan, has said DOO is "old, not new technology" designed for four-car trains in the early 1980s.

He said rail workers now have 1,100 passengers on a 12-car train and, under DOO, two seconds to check 24 sets of doors.

'Serial abuse'

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, has said trains where drivers close the doors are safe. It has claimed that a third of trains across Britain operate this way and have done so safely for 30 years.

Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, is to put a bill before parliament to make it easier for passengers to get compensation and to increase financial penalties paid by train companies.

He said: "GTR are paid over £1bn to run the rail service, they paid fines of just over £2m.

"That is a fraction of 1% and I don't think that is hurting them in the pocket enough to give them the sense of urgency to make sure their trains run on time and don't get cancelled."

Mr Loughton said he wants a new rail ombudsman to be put in place.

He said: "We don't have a proper ombudsman with teeth at the moment.

"The job of the ombudsman will be to deal with complaints properly, proper recompense and to run that compensation system, and to flag up where there is serial abuse by rail operating companies that are not providing the service they should be and to haul them up accordingly."

Go-Ahead, which owns 65% of the Southern franchise through GTR, has warned that its rail division will miss full-year financial forecasts because of the continuing strike action on Southern.

Joe Spooner, transport analyst at Jefferies, told the Reuters news agency that Go-Ahead could be facing a further £3m hit from the strike action.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Further stoppages are planned by both unions

Planned Southern strike dates

00:01 Friday 16 December to 23:59: Friday 16 December (Aslef and RMT drivers' strike)

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

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

00:01 Monday 9 January to 23:59: Saturday 14 January (Aslef and RMT drivers' strike)

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