Rail campaigners described this week’s strike as ‘totally unacceptable’ and blamed the government for not taking control of the situation.
There have been no trains in 1066 country since Sunday as union members went on strike in protest against plans to allow the driver to control the doors.
Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG) believes the Department for Transport (DfT) should ‘get hold’ of the dispute between Southern Rail and RMT and force them to come to an agreement.
Marshlink Rail Action lamented the fact that the changes being disputed will not affect trains between Hastings and Ashford, meaning commuters are bearing the brunt of issues that do not relate to them.
The strike was called off on Wednesday to allow talks to continue but the lack of trains continues today (Thursday, August 8), because of the late notice.
BRAG chairman Hugh Sharp reckoned Bexhill was the biggest station without any trains during the strike, which caused ‘immense disruption’ for commuters.
“Bexhill rail travellers have been experiencing short-notice cancellations and disruption for many months as a result of this ongoing dispute,” he said before the strike was called off.
“Both sides appear dug-in, and the strike this week has left Bexhill without trains or replacement bus services for days.
“This is totally unacceptable.”
RMT members believe Southern’s plan to let drivers operate the doors instead of the conductors is unsafe and went on strike to put pressure on the rail operator to reconsider.
The disruption has left thousands of commuters unable to get to work, greater traffic on the roads and caused a serious dent to the economy.
Southern promised to run 60 per cent of its schedule but there have been no trains between Ashford and Eastbourne and a only a bus replacement between Hastings and Kent at peak times.
MarshLink Action Group chairman Stuart Harland described this ‘strange confusing’ week as an ‘omnishambles’, particularly as neither of the two main disputes apply to the Hastings-Ashford line.
This is because the doors of the MarshLink’s 171 units cannot be operated by the driver so whatever the eventual resolution, the guard will operate the doors.
And there is no plan to change the role of booking office staff along the Marshlink.
“But where do we go from here? If the ACAS talks fail we may well be back to last Monday’s position again. Only one thing is certain, Southern’s passengers continue to be the fall guy,” he said.
East Sussex Rail Alliance’s Ray Chapman told Sky News the government needs to take responsibility for the situation and compensate passengers.
Mr Sharp believes the DfT needs to take control as commuters are not getting value for money at the moment.
“Whereas most of the Southern network is operating at a reduced service during the strike, Bexhill station – which handles over 1.5 million passengers per year - must be the largest station on the Southern network without any train services at all,” he said before the strike was called off.
“This has caused immense disruption for commuters who rely on the train to get to work. Moreover, like other south coast towns, our local economy is reliant on visitors in the summer months, many of whom travel by train.
“It is incumbent on the DfT to get a hold of this and resolve this dispute.
“Southern Rail runs the service under contract to the DfT, which pays the operator a management fee.
“Neither rail travellers nor taxpayer are getting value for money at present.”
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