Belfast Telegraph

Union call to 'patronising' Grayling as Southern passengers suffer more chaos

The Transport Secretary has been urged to "get out of his bunker" and try to help resolve continuing problems on Southern Railway after the latest scenes of chaos affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Services on the busy Brighton to London main line were cancelled or delayed on Tuesday evening because of a damaged track, leading commuters to warn of dangerously overcrowded trains and platforms.

Trains will be disrupted again on Friday and Saturday because of the latest strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union in the long-running dispute over changes to the role of conductors.

On Wednesday, the union called on Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to intervene, and questioned why a recently announced £20 million fund to improve Southern services seemed to be making no difference to daily delays and disruption.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "I t's all very well Southern trying to blame Network Rail for the chaos last night but the fact remains that, if the company wasn't hoarding £100 million in profits, that cash could be invested in renewals and maintenance, easing the intolerable pressure on our rail infrastructure.

"Passengers will also be rightly demanding to know whatever happened to Chris Grayling's £20 million Southern rail taskforce stunt.

"It is time for the minister to get out of his bunker, stop patronising staff and the public and get round the table with the unions and the company to sort the deep-seated problems wrecking services and safety on Southern."

Southern said the track was damaged near Wivelsfield on the Brighton line after an electrical fault burned a hole in the rail.

Rail replacement buses were operating.

Southern said it is putting on extra trains during the strikes, with around 60 more services between Haywards Heath and London Victoria.

Almost all of Southern's 156 stations will have either a train or bus service and there will be extra staff at stations.

But there will be a restricted service, with many routes having fewer trains, and on some routes there will be no trains at all.

There will be no rail service on Saturday to Lewes, where tens of thousands of people attend the town's popular annual bonfire, with Southern citing public safety for its decision.

Southern passenger services director Angie Doll said: "We're sorry to our passengers that we won't be able to provide a full service because of the RMT's pointless and wholly unjustified strike action.

"The union is causing yet further misery and disruption, which is having a material impact on people's work and family lives.

"We are moving forward and are operating hundreds of trains a day with the driver now operating the doors and a second fully trained person on board, so striking this week will achieve nothing except further hardship for passengers."