1066 country MPs call for talks to end rail dispute

Huw Merriman and Amber Rudd, pictured with former rail minister Claire Perry last year
Huw Merriman and Amber Rudd, pictured with former rail minister Claire Perry last year
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The MPs for 1066 country called on Southern Rail and the union to come to an agreement to end the dispute causing this week’s strike as commuters have ‘suffered enough’.

Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman and Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd have been speaking to Southern’s chief executive, RMT’s leader and the rail minister in the last week to urge for a solution be found.

RMT members have been on strike all week as part of a long-running dispute over role changes, which has left no trains at all for five days and only a limited bus replacement service from Hastings to Ashford.

Ms Rudd said the union has been offered a better deal by Southern to end the strike than most passengers get from the railway operator.

“I have spoken with Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern Rail, and told him that passengers in Hastings and Rye have suffered enormous disruption for far too long and urgently need a resolution,” she said.

“He assured me have he has given the RMT and its members guarantees over jobs, pay rises and a second member of staff on every scheduled train – as is currently the case.

“What Southern are asking for, in return, is flexibility for a train to run if the second crew member cannot make the train and the driver is able to operate the doors.

“I hope that the union will consider that it has been given a better deal than many of its passengers enjoy, many of whom are struggling to get to their places of employment.”

RMT members believe Southern’s plan to let drivers operate the doors instead of the conductors is unsafe and are striking to put pressure on the rail operator to reconsider.

The five-day strike has left thousands of commuters unable to get to work, greater traffic on the roads and caused a serious dent to the economy.

Mr Merriman made a video diary of his journey from Bexhill to meetings in Brighton on Monday which took almost three times longer than usual each way.

He spoke with RMT leader Mick Cash for an hour this week before meeting rail minister Paul Maynard.

“I was grateful to Mick Cash for calling me and I listened to the matters which he felt staff needed more reassurance over,” he said.

“Equally, I asked Mick to accept that there were matters which his union needed to concede on which would help trains run more regularly in the future and give a better service to passengers.

“I then passed on the concerns to the secretary of state for transport and the rail minister, the latter of whom I talked with.

“I made clear to the rail minister that our constituents had suffered enough and I urged him to consider bringing his influence to the table to get the remaining issues resolved.

“As local MPs, Amber and I will continue to do all we can to help facilitate talks between those who can bring this matter to an end.”

The RMT is scheduled to end strike on Friday (August 12), but Southern has announced, if it cannot reach an agreement beforehand, it will impose the new changes later this month.

This is in order to introduce new rolling stock to many lines across its network as part of its investment programme.

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