MPs welcome rail strike suspension to allow '˜vital' talks

MPs welcomed the early end of this week's strike saying it is '˜vital' an agreement is made as commuters have '˜suffered enough'.

Thursday, 11th August 2016, 3:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 11:32 pm
Huw Merriman and Amber Rudd, pictured with former rail minister Claire Perry last year

The five-day strike was called off yesterday (Wednesday, August 10) to allow Southern Rail and the union to restart talks.

Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman and Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd spoke to Southern’s chief executive, RMT’s leader and the rail minister in the past few days to urge for a solution be found.

Mr Merriman claimed the strike had jeopardised the campaign for high speed rail.

“As Amber has demonstrated with her campaign for high speed rail, we badly need better rail services to connect us to London and deliver economic growth,” he said.

“We have made it clear to both sides that they are jeopardising our plans for modernisation and economic growth and pressed them to come to an immediate agreement for our constituents.

“It is now vital that both sides reach a conclusion and put their differences behind them.”

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

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

Southern promised to run 60 per cent of its schedule but there have been no trains between Ashford and Eastbourne and a only a bus replacement between Hastings and Kent at peak times.

Home Secretary Rudd hoped the RMT would accept Southern’s offer and guarantees to end the disruption for her constituents.

“In speaking to the unions and management, Huw and I have stressed that a resolution must be reached in order to resume services for our constituents,” she said.

“We hope that the union will consider that the guarantee given on jobs, pay and a second member of staff on board our trains will be enough to reassure union members that the modernisation of local rail services is good for passengers and staff alike.”

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.

In the videos, the MP said he was ‘disappointed’ with Southern Rail for not putting on a replacement bus service for Bexhill during the train strike.

With no trains running between Eastbourne and Ashford due to the strike, the MP was forced to get a bus.

“We’re in the worst stretch possible for this constituency, which is not a great start and I’m a bit disappointed Southern Rail couldn’t find some buses to put on as a replacement service,” he said in the video.

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