Rail group calls on Government to sort out rail dispute

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A rail group has called on the Government to step in to try to resolve a bitter dispute between a train operator and its staff.

Earlier in the year, train operator Southern announced its plans to ‘evolve’ the role of conductors, which the Rail, Maritime and Transport union says will compromise passenger safety.

RMT members have taken part in 24-hour walkouts, causing disruption throughout the network, with no Southern trains running in or out of stations in Hastings, Bexhill or Rye.

Southern says ‘unprecedented’ levels of staff sickness amid the dispute is resulting in more than 80 train cancellations on average each day.

But union bosses rounded on the firm, claiming it has cancelled some services due to a shortage of staff, despite train crew being available.

Southern says the suggestion it is deliberately cancelling services is ‘simply ludicrous’.

With no end in sight to the dispute, SHRIMP (St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement) is calling for the Government to step in.

Martin Woodfine of SHRIMP said: “As a voluntary group we are unwilling to endorse either GTR or the RMT in this dispute.

“However, the GTR franchise is 100 per cent subsidised by the Department for Transport (DfT), with all fare revenue returning to them, and we feel that the DfT should be taking a more pro-active and publicly visible role in resolving this dispute, with no predetermined outcome.”

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “It is clear that the current situation on Southern and Thameslink routes is unacceptable, with repeated poor performance made much worse by unjustified industrial action.

“Although the ongoing work on the Thameslink programme has caused disruption, I have been working with the operator to drive improvements, with extra drivers being recruited and sensible steps being taken to improve customer service and reliability.

“These changes will deliver what passengers want without affecting jobs. I want to see the industry working together to respond to the challenge.”

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