Bexhill rail group calls on Government to intervene in dispute

Southern train PPP-160519-120213001
Southern train PPP-160519-120213001

A local rail campaign group has joined calls for the Department for Transport (DfT) to intervene in the ongoing industrial dispute between the unions and train operator Southern.

A series of one-day strikes followed by ‘unprecedented’ levels of staff sickness has seen hundreds of services cancelled since the start of the year, and whole days when Bexhill has been without any train services.

Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG) chairman Hugh Sharp said: “Taxpayers are the ultimate funders of our rail system and have a right to see that the Government is getting to grips with a situation that continues to deteriorate.”

Mr Sharp and a delegation from BRAG are due to meet with Bexhill MP Huw Merriman to press the issue.

BRAG’s complaints include last-minute cancellations, including on low-frequency routes, overcrowding on subsequent services and the termination of some services at Eastbourne - leaving Bexhill passengers with a two-hour gap in services.

Mr Sharp said: “BRAG has also recently been made aware that some late evening and last trains have also been cancelled.

“In such circumstances, the rail operator has a duty to arrange alternative transport home but BRAG is concerned that many stations are not staffed late at night and therefore passengers are at risk of being left stranded.

“Business and leisure visitors to the town are at a point that they can no longer rely on getting there and back by rail.”

Last week, the St Leonards Hastings Rail Improvement (SHRIMP) group also called on the DfT to step in.

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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