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18 May 2016, 10:13
Thousands of rail passengers in Sussex and Surrey face disruption to services today because of a 24-hour strike by conductors on Southern Rail.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Southern Railway are staging a 24-hour walkout in a bitter row over the role of conductors.
The company warned there will be no service on some routes and a limited number of trains between 7.30am and 6pm on others, describing the disruption as ``totally unnecessary''.
Southern said it expects to run two-thirds of its 2,100 services, but warned there will be a ``significant'' impact all day.
The two sides blamed each other for the dispute, and for lack of progress since a previous strike last month.
The union said it was continuing to receive support from the public at stations across Southern Railway despite the company ``blowing'' money on an ``anti-union advertising campaign''.
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: ``Our guards members on Southern are solid and determined this morning and the union welcomes the support from the travelling public as they recognise that this dispute is about defending safety-critical jobs and services against the drive for cash-driven cuts that would see those services hacked to ribbons.
``With commuters paying thousands of pounds a year for their annual tickets on Southern there can be no-explanation for the removal of the guards other than a central obsession in the boardroom for putting increased profits above public safety. That message is ringing out loud and clear as the dispute continues.''
Southern maintains conductors will remain on trains but responsibility for closing doors will switch to drivers.
Dyan Crowther, chief operating officer of Southern's owners, Govia Thameslink, said: ``Despite repeated efforts over six months, the RMT seem unwilling to talk properly about this. Our door remains open to talks but they seem determined to inflict another day of misery on Southern commuters.
``The only thing that changes is the new conductors will no longer close the doors, a task that passes to the driver with the aid of CCTV. This will cost no-one their jobs, and frees up staff on board trains to better serve passengers.
``We wholeheartedly agree with our passengers who want staff to remain on trains and that's exactly why as many services will have staff on board as they do today.
``Our on-board staff will have a better role which better meets the needs of passengers, securing their valued position on the railway for the long term.''
Southern said the change to the conductor role will result in fewer train cancellations.