Belfast Telegraph

RMT claims 'Christmas bonus' for Southern Railway owners if buses replace trains

The Southern Railway dispute has taken a new twist, with union claims that the operator's owners could be in for a "Christmas bonus" if buses replace trains.

Prime Minister Theresa May has discussed with Conservative MPs the idea of buses being laid on for Southern's passengers who have suffered months of disruption because of strikes, a shortage of staff and other problems.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said Southern's parent company, Go-Ahead, could supply buses to provide rail replacement services.

Rail minister Paul Maynard confirmed in a Parliamentary question that the Government is considering the provision of alternative transport, said the RMT.

Go-Ahead runs buses as well as trains, and will benefit from any move to lay on buses if the Southern dispute continues, said the RMT.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) runs the Southern franchise, which is embroiled in long-running disputes over changes to the role of conductors, and driver-only trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It is bad enough that the nature of the Southern/GTR contact means that as each week of this fiasco goes by the taxpayer is losing millions of pounds in lost revenue while GTR's owners continue to get paid and are laughing all the way to the bank.

"Now we know that not only are Southern's owners being paid to lay on bus replacement services they are also set to get a Christmas bonus from implementing Theresa May's PR stunt.

"The Prime Minister needs to focus the Government's efforts on strike solving not PR stunts and strike breaking.

"The basis of a settlement is in RMT's proposal for a Christmas truce whereby the Government authorises a similar deal on Southern to that which been agreed on its other rail contracts this year and which guarantee a second safety critical member of staff on their trains."

Southern services continued to be hit by a overtime ban by drivers, while another wave of RMT strikes is due to start on New Year's Eve.

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