Rail Conductor Dispute Worsens

A union claims it's got evidence that Southern Rail trains were cancelled even when staff were available.

The RMT- which has announced a 24 hour strike next Tuesday- says the evidences relates to 33 trains that were affected.

Southern has disputed the 'spurious' claims saying there's no incentive for them to cancel trains unnecessarily.

A Southern spokesman said:

``There is absolutely no incentive for us to cancel trains unnecessarily - we are fined heavily every time this happens. Some of these spurious examples can be explained by missing train crew causing an earlier cancellation but with so much disruption, genuine mistakes are also bound to be made when telling our passengers what is going on.

``The simple fact is sickness levels among conductors are very high. Driver sickness has also risen at certain depots - at one the latest weekly rate is almost double the average for the previous two months.

``This, combined with a reluctance now by drivers at some locations to work overtime on top of their standard four-day working week, is leaving us with a shortfall of traincrew.

``The RMT can argue about this all they like. Our focus is on restoring the service we give our passengers. That cannot be achieved by unnecessary strikes, only by sensible dialogue.''

The RMT claim the services they've got proof were cancelled include a Littlehampton to Portsmouth service that was cancelled with a full crew, and a service cancelled in the Hastings area because of a broken down train, which was blamed on conductor illness.

General secretary Mick Cash said:

``RMT is sick and tired of Govia Thameslink (GTR, which runs Southern), backed up by Tory transport minister Claire Perry, peddling a pack of lies and trying to blame staff for cancellations and disruption which are down to the company itself. This research blows apart that campaign of dirty tricks.

``There is no 'unofficial action' on Southern. The staff shortages are down to gross mismanagement of staffing numbers, rosters and diagrams by the company on this basket case franchise, and our hotline information now proves that services are being axed even when staff are available.

``Trying to lump the blame onto hard-working, frontline staff , who take the full force of passenger anger for cancellations and delays, is cowardly and despicable behaviour by this failing, rip-off GTR outfit and their cheerleaders in the Government.

``Luckily, no one believes a word that comes out of this company and their dirty tricks department.''

Commuters in Brighton held a protest on Tuesday to highlight the disruption caused by the cancellations and delays.