Published: 21st August 2016
The militant rail union The RMT, has announced new strike dates in their battle against the Government using Southern as the vehicle citing who presses a button as the cause.
The union has instructed Southern guards not to report for work, between 0001hrs on Wednesday 7 September and 2359hrs on Thursday 8 September. The RMT says that Southern walked away from talks and has opted instead to bulldoze through the roll out of the new operational arrangements from last Sunday without any serious attempt to secure agreement.
The Union also says that as a result of this flagrant disregard for the safety and security of passengers and staff alike, it had no alternative but to order a strike. This is despite the Office of Rail and Road and the Rail Safety Standards Board saying that the Driver Only Operation (DOO) is a safe method of working.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said; “This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of the Govia Thameslink and the Government who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern. Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access.
"Our fight is with the company and the Government who have dragged this franchise into total meltdown. We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains.
"It is disgraceful that neither the company or the Government are prepared to engage and are looking to bully through the extension of DOO and the attack on the guards from last Sunday regardless. They should wake up and get round the table now as an urgent priority."
Southern Passenger Service Director Alex Foulds said: “Passengers and staff will once again be appalled by the RMT’s decision to hold yet another strike. We are moving forward with our plans for the benefit of customers after nine months of fruitless attempts to reach an agreement.
“This action is unnecessary, unjustified and futile – we have guaranteed all our onboard staff a job until the end of the franchise, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary. And claims that safety is at risk are just untrue. The independent rail safety body has said so, and nearly half our trains run without conductors already.”
Jeremy Corbyn claims he could not get a seat on a ram-packed Virgin East Coast train – but Virgin say there were plenty of seats!
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn appears to have floored himself when he caught the 11am Virgin East Coast train from Kings Cross to Newcastle on 11 August and was filmed sitting on the floor claiming that the train was ‘ram-packed’ and no seats were available.
But Virgin Trains checked its CCTV on the train and says that the Labour leader walked past some empty seats to sit on the floor. Video sent to the media showed Jeremy Corbyn on the floor during his 11 August train journey and Virgin says he walked past available seats in coach H before taking the floor along with his team.
He then went back to coach H and used a seat 45 minutes into the journey, more than two hours before arriving in Newcastle but here were other available seats on the train Virgin says.
Filmed while on the floor, the battling politician said: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day on the trains, commuters and long distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff on the train are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody. The reality is there’s not enough trains, we need more of them.”
A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: We have to take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case. “We know that some of our services on our east and west coast franchises are extremely popular, and it can be hard to find a seat.
This usually happens in particular circumstances, for example when there’s a big sporting event, or on the first off-peak train out of London. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about cup finals or fares regulation, which could spread demand much more effectively if it was less of a blunt instrument.
It seems that along with many politicians, they try and use the railways to score political points and fail, irrespective of what party they belong to or lead!
Earlier this year Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted to rail.co.uk at the Bradshaw lecture that the Government was investing £38billion into the railways when Network Rail chairman said it was a third of this in a report. The politician said that maintenance counted as investment and not just enhancements like electrification.
Would the unions strike if Mr Corbyn tried to nationalise the railways and change their working conditions? That is another question!