By Phil Marsh

Southern restores full timetable as more staff refuse to go on strike and says to the RMT; “Call off strikes or settlement offer is withdrawn”.

Published: 31st October 2016

Its official! Thameslink to become straight forward from now on….

With more strikes looming for November 4 and 5, Southern Railway owners, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Human Resources Director Mr Bindon, has written to the militant rail union, the RMT, telling them that should the strike go ahead, the "full and comprehensive offer" will be withdrawn. Five other strike days have already been announced.

The letter to RMT boss Mick Cash urged him to call off the strike and accept GTR's eight-point offer made to settle the long running dispute. The offer includes a five-year jobs guarantee, above inflation pay rises for two years, guaranteed minimum levels of overtime and more trains than today having a safety-trained person on board.

Mr Bindon wrote: "Your unnecessary action is continuing to have a material and negative impact on people's work and family lives as well the regional economy and I urge you to stop" and that he is ready to meet this week "if they want to discuss our offer".

More trains reinstated by Southern

It is well known that Southern introduced a new timetable last July which brought over 300 cancelled trains every day leaving some routes with no trains. The company has been gradually reinstating these cancelled trains with 63 more services just restored to the timetable. These are the Croydon-Kensington Olympia-Milton Keynes services and 34 West Coastway services serving Hove, Bognor, Barnham and Worthing.

Services between Brighton and Southampton and Hastings and Ashford are also restored from 31 October and this means that in theory, the normal timetable has been fully reinstated. Although cancellations are still taking place due to staffing issues.

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They said:

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR said: “I’m delighted for our passengers that we will be restoring more services to the timetable. This is what our passengers deserve and I thank them for their patience during what has been a difficult time for everyone. Clearly the industrial relations issues we have are, regrettably, continuing, but we are pressing ahead with our plans and are committed to delivering a better service for everyone.“

But 33 Gatwick Express services will not return until December 12 when the annual autumn leaf-fall arrangements end saying that leaving these services out until the end of autumn will help reduce congestion and reactionary delays on the London to Brighton mainline.

More defy strike call

GTR has revealed that more conductors than ever are defying the RMT’s strikes with almost a third now turning up for work in the last strike in October. Previous strikes saw around 16 of Guards working normally and GTR says that the percentage of conductors reporting for work during strikes has risen steadily as follows:

26-27 April 17%

18 May 16.6%

21 June 20.7%

8-10 August 21.5%

7-8 September 24%

11-13 October 27%

And the Union says:

Mick Cash RMT General Secretary said: “This is just more threats and bullying from Southern Rail and does nothing at all to resolve the current safety dispute. It is also completely meaningless as the union has already rejected the £2000 bribe to sell out safety and the company are well aware of that.

“The action later this week goes ahead due to intransigence of the GTR bosses and their cheerleaders in Government who are pulling the strings in this dispute. RMT will be holding a national rally at Parliament tomorrow lunchtime in support of the fight for safe services on Southern Rail.

“The union remains available for serious talks and we would repeat the call to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to get out of his bunker, get hold of the Southern management and get round the table.”

Thameslink changes its branding

GTR has announced that Thameslink will receive its own branding. Because they say it has not had its own identity and has been sharing one with Great Northern, even though these lines are very different. But just about every passenger in London knows what Thameslink is and where it runs.

They say:

GTR says that they will soon start to receive their brand new trains and together with our partners in the Thameslink Programme we are also improving the stations and tracks so that in the coming years we’ll have increased capacity and offer better connections right through the heart of London. We have created a new brand to help reflect this unique service and provide a new look and feel for the future of this vital line.

Straight Forward

Our new brand is built on the idea of being Straight Forward and GTR says Thameslink is a complicated line offering a unique service linking people from the north and south of the River Thames, with trains running frequently right through the heart of London. We need to make travel on our line as simple as it can be and we always want to improve.

GTR says that ‘Straight Forward’ is about what customers want – to get moving and that GTR is here to try and make train travel easier for people by taking a common sense approach to continually improve our service. Cynics would say it’s a rebranding exercise and trying to limit reputational damage to the company.

What are the new trains and where are they running?

A couple of Bombardier-built four-carriage 110mph Class 387/1 trains are now running between Kings Cross and Cambridge while the 12 carriage Siemens Class 700 trains are running between Bedford and Brighton. The Class 387 seating is less crowded than the class 365 trains they are replacing with only four seats across the carriages rather than five.

But on the latter route, the class 700 trains are now common and the older class 319 trains are being renovated and used in the northwest.

Both new train types allow passengers to walk through the whole train unlike the older trains which had no provision to walk through. The Siemens trains are really high volume people-carriers with a large circulating area by the doors and high density seating. There is some first class seating at each end of the train.

But beware, in a cost-saving exercise, there are no seat-back tables or plugs provided in the DfT procured trains. This may change as the trains will be operating for the next 25 years and will be seen as not acceptable to passengers.

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