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Govia Thameslink facing strike ballots on multiple rail routes

Published 14/04/2016

Commuters make their way past a Thameslink train on the platform at Blackfriars Station, London, in the morning rush hour.
Commuters make their way past a Thameslink train on the platform at Blackfriars Station, London, in the morning rush hour.
A Southern train and the Gatwick Express on the approach into London Victoria station

A leading rail operator is embroiled in a series of industrial disputes which could flare up in the coming weeks on some of the country's busiest routes.

Govia Thameslink (GTR), which runs Thameslink, Southern, Gatwick Express and Great Northern, is facing strike ballots by the country's biggest rail unions in separate rows over driver-only operation of trains, the role of guards, and the future of ticket offices.

The disputes are over new, longer trains on the Gatwick Express, the role of guards on Southern, and plans to close more than 80 ticket offices across the franchise, with staff moving on to station concourses to help passengers.

The company, a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis, maintains its plans aim to make staff more visible and of greater assistance to passengers.

Passenger groups have raised objections to the ticket office plans, which GTR says it is dealing with.

One of the new 12-car trains on the Gatwick Express was introduced last weekend, but it left without any passengers after objections from the driver.

The next 12-car service is due to leave London Victoria on Monday, but unless a deal is reached with the drivers' union Aslef, it is doubtful if it will run.

Aslef is planning to ballot its members for strikes, saying it was opposed to driver-only operations.

National officer Simon Weller said the union had an agreement covering 10-car trains and accused the company of "doing things on the cheap".

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have been voting on strikes in the Southern guards dispute, with the result due next week.

The union will have to give seven days notice of any industrial action.

The union is accusing GTR of "diluting" the role of guards by making drivers responsible for operating doors.

The company says Thameslink and Great Northern have no conductors, while just under half of Southern services run without a guard.

GTR says it has guaranteed no compulsory job losses or pay cuts.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: "The French-backed owners of the basket-case GTR franchise seem to be determined to wage war on their staff and passengers alike, and it is about time the politicians stepped in, terminated their contract and let the public sector have a go at running these crucial commuter routes in and out of London."

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