Belfast Telegraph

Southern strike and broken rail bring Monday morning misery for commuters

Hundreds of thousands of rail passengers suffered a fresh bout of travel misery on Monday because of a strike and a broken rail.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Southern Railway were said to be solidly supporting a 24-hour walkout in a long-running dispute over the role of conductors.

Southern was planning to run 70% of its trains and return to a normal service on Tuesday.

South West Trains passengers were hit by disruption because of a broken rail at Wimbledon.

A number of trains were cancelled, and there was a "severely reduced" service at Wimbledon during the morning peak.

Talks will resume later between Southern and the Aslef union over a separate dispute about driver-only trains.

The RMT has complained of being excluded from the talks, which are being held at the TUC.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT guards members on Southern Rail remain rock-solid and absolutely determined in their action in defence of rail safety this morning. Their resilience is a credit to the entire trade union movement.

"These are local people fighting for safe railways for their local communities. Instead of a campaign of threats and intimidation from the basket-case Southern Rail outfit, their professional concerns about the implications of axing a second safety-critical person from the trains should be taken seriously.

"The union repeats its demand for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and the company to get out of their bunker, stop the mud-slinging and give RMT and our guards members access to the same talks process that has been set up by the TUC for our sister union in the Southern drivers dispute."

Angie Doll, Southern's passenger services director, said: "The RMT is continuing with industrial action that is now pointless.

"Because of the changes we've now finished making, we're able to run 200 more services - a further 10% increase than previous RMT strike days - on more routes serving more passengers.

"Sadly, our passengers once again face disruption because of the RMT's intransigence and refusal to suspend action and engage in meaningful talks.

"We remain ready and willing to meet for face-to-face talks to end their dispute and move forward to deliver a better railway for passengers."

:: Talks will also resume on Monday to try to avert more strikes on London Underground over jobs and ticket office closures.

Manual Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), said ahead of the Tube talks: "The clock is ticking and we need an agreement by the end of this week or, sadly, further strikes will follow.

"Our negotiating team remains committed to reaching a resolution which ends this long-standing dispute."

Mr Cortes accused former London mayor Boris Johnson of an "act of vandalism" in agreeing to cut hundreds of jobs and close ticket offices.

The RMT and TSSA staged a 24-hour strike earlier this month which crippled Tube services and caused travel chaos in the capital.