Southern Railway which runs the Uckfield Line has warned passengers to expect a ‘severely reduced and disrupted service’ every day from Tuesday, December 6, for as long as a train drivers’ overtime ban lasts.
Southern passenger services director Angie Doll says in a newsletter to passengers:
“The announcement by the ASLEF union earlier this week that it will be introducing an overtime ban from this Tuesday, December 6, among its Southern driver members, alongside a series of proposed strike days, will unfortunately result in severe disruption to Southern services.
“Southern, like the rest of the rail industry, relies on a degree of rest day working by its drivers as part of its daily operation, and passengers are warned to expect a severely reduced and disrupted service every day while the union’s overtime ban is in place.
“We are currently looking at all the implications of the ASLEF announcement and what level of service we can provide. We will update our website as soon as the information becomes available. We will also advertise information at stations and via the press.”
In addition strikes will affect Southern and Gatwick Express services on the following dates:
- Tuesday to Thursday, December 6 to 8 (RMT conductors’ strike)
- Tuesday and Wednesday, December 13 and 14 (ASLEF and RMT drivers’ strike)
- Friday, December 16 (ASLEF and RMT drivers’ strike)
- Monday, and Tuesday, December 19 and 20 (RMT conductors’ strike – these dates have been changed from some originally announced by the union. See the RMT website)
- Saturday to Monday, December 31, to 2 (RMT conductors’ strike)
- Monday to Saturday, January 9, to 14 (ASLEF and RMT drivers’ strike)
Southern’s parent company takes High Court action
Govia Thameslink Railway, parent company of Southern Railway, has today issued proceedings at the High Court to seek an injunction to stop ASLEF’s industrial action, according to a press release from the company.
“The union is planning drivers’ strikes for the run-up to Christmas (a 48-hour strike on 13-14 December and a 24-hour strike on 16 December) and a week-long walkout in the New Year (9-14 January). It will also begin a continuous overtime ban beginning next Tuesday, 6 December.
“The train operator has lodged a court application citing its belief the union’s industrial action breaches customers’ rights under EU law.
“In a statement, Charles Horton, Chief Executive of GTR, said:
“We launch legal action reluctantly but now without any other choice. Obviously we would prefer to resolve this directly with ASLEF. We asked the union to withdraw the industrial action and to re-enter discussions but they refused to do so, which means that we now have no choice but to go to court.
“We have a responsibility to our customers to do all we can to protect their interests and maintain services for them. Passengers now face the prospect of 40 days of continuous industrial action by ASLEF, and, on top of months of travel misery they’ve already suffered, it is totally unacceptable.
!The proposed industrial action called by ASLEF is unjustified, unnecessary and we believe unlawful. It will severely disrupt all our customers, including the tens of thousands of customers a day who use our services for travelling to and from Gatwick Airport.
“We believe that the industrial action breaches our and our customers’ rights under EU law and so we are seeking an injunction to stop the industrial action.
“It’s perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train, and that’s how a third of the trains up and down the country – with the full agreement and support of ASLEF – already operate today.”
Following the application to the High Court, this matter is likely to be considered at a hearing in the coming days.
Until the legal action is concluded GTR will make no further comment.
Wealden MP puts focus on rail compensation
Wealden MP Nus Ghani says in a press release: “We cannot give in to the unions” and is pressing for better compensation for rail passengers affected by industrial action.
Her press release says:
“Following days of increased misery on the Southern network, and the decision by ASLEF to start strike action on GTR’s Southern routes the toll on passengers and local businesses of the dire service and appalling strikes on the Southern rail network is simply unacceptable and innocent people are suffering.
“Recent weeks have seen an inexcusable and inexplicable downward turn in performance, and the increase in correspondence and public meetings has reflected this.
“The decision of ASLEF to start strike action is further bad news. The union has already accepted the introduction of Driver Controlled Operation, so it is clear that this move is purely designed for political reasons, with the passengers the innocent victims stuck in the middle.
“Network Rail and GTR are equally to blame for the network’s performance. There has been a lack of planning, investment and simple empathy towards customers who are paying for a service which they are simply not receiving. Lives are being ruined by this.
“I am pushing for the strikes to be called off, for GTR’s management to get a grip and, importantly, for the Government to compensate passengers above and beyond what GTR presently offers.
“We cannot give in to the unions, but I will continue to take the side of passengers innocently caught up in this situation. I hope that the Government will be able to take action which properly compensates passengers for the miserable service they are forced to pay for. I am hopeful that the Government will come forward with a serious and significant compensation package.”
Wealden Council calls for solution to damaging dispute
Wealden District Council says in a press release:
Wealden District Councillors unanimously called on the rail unions and Southern railways to find a solution to the current dispute as a matter of urgency.
Council leader Bob Standley, who proposed the motion at full council, said the latest round of strikes, which includes the Christmas and New Year period, were designed to cause the maximum disruption to the public, and that the strikes were affecting the economy of the district.
“I fear the dispute will deter investors at a time when we are trying to encourage new businesses into the District and help existing businesses expand.”
The full effect the dispute has been having in the district was made clear by councillors taking part in the debate.
Commuters on the Uckfield line had been particularly badly affected by a combination of platform extensions, industrial action, rolling stock shortages and light failures were making the situation unacceptable.
Hard-working residents were being held to ransom. They were also being unfairly penalised by the practice of terminating services at Crowborough to improve turn-around times, which meant an hour delay for those commuters.
Other councillors urged that needs of disabled travellers and parents with childcare commitments be kept firmly in mind when resolving the dispute, and highlighted problems on the Eastbourne to Haywards Heath line where Polegate commuters were suffering from a preference being given to services to Brighton and Hove.
Councillors called on the Government to support the BML2 infrastructure improvements which would improve rail capacity in the south east by re-instating the rail link between Uckfield and Lewes.
Seconding the motion, Cllr Roy Galley said the debate had highlighted just how horrendous the situation had become, not just in terms of delays but also the conditions passengers were expected to travel in.
“This has gone on far too long and all those involved in this need to get a grip.”
The council will also be sharing its concerns about the dispute with local MPs and the Ministry for Transport.
The full text of the motion approved by Wealden District Council is:
“The continuing dispute on Southern railways is causing considerable inconvenience to residents and businesses especially commuters.
The strikes are affecting the economy of the district and will deter investors at a time the council is encouraging new businesses into the district and existing businesses to expand.
The current round of strikes, including over the Christmas and New Year period, are designed to cause maximum disruption to residents.
The council calls on unions and Southern railways to find a solution to the current dispute as a matter of urgency.”