South­ern strike chaos

Trade union dis­pute causes most dis­rup­tive strikes in 20 years. When will it end?

Rail (UK) - - Front Page - Paul Clifton Con­tribut­ing Writer rail@bauer­me­ @PaulCliftonBBC

A STRIKE by driv­ers be­long­ing to the ASLEF union halted all 2,242 daily South­ern Rail­way ser­vices on De­cem­ber 13 and 14, mak­ing it the most dis­rup­tive in­dus­trial ac­tion on the rail­way in more than 20 years.

Nor­mally busy sta­tions across south Lon­don, Sur­rey and Sus­sex were de­serted as pas­sen­gers worked from home, took the day off or at­tempted to drive.

As this is­sue of RAIL went to press, talks were tak­ing place at the con­cil­i­a­tion ser­vice, ACAS, to find com­mon ground be­tween the ASLEF and RMT unions and the train op­er­a­tor. How­ever, an over­time ban and a fur­ther 24-hour strike by ASLEF on De­cem­ber 16 re­mained on.

South­ern ad­vised its pas­sen­gers not to at­tempt to travel, and most pas­sen­gers stayed away. No buses were laid on in­stead, and the com­pany es­ti­mated the strike stopped 150,000 com­muters each day.

ASLEF driv­ers and RMT con­duc­tors are protest­ing about fur­ther use of Driver Only Op­er­a­tion on South­ern Rail­way, whereby the driver (and not the guard) would be re­spon­si­ble for clos­ing the train doors at sta­tions. The work­ing method is used

on one third of the na­tional rail net­work, and is used through­out the Lon­don Un­der­ground.

Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port Chris Grayling said: “The unions ap­pear to have lit­tle in­ter­est in re­solv­ing the dis­pute un­less the man­age­ment cave in to­tally to their de­mands.

“These are not just to stop the cur­rent mod­erni­sa­tion process, but to start rev­ers­ing 30 years of work­ing prac­tice changes right across the coun­try.

“When I met the gen­eral sec­re­tary of ASLEF, with vir­tu­ally his first breath he promised me ‘ten year of in­dus­trial ac­tion’.”

ASLEF Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Mick Whe­lan ac­cused Grayling of be­ing “less than hon­est on all counts”.

He said: “We have been forced into this by an in­tran­si­gent com­pany that is not pre­pared to ne­go­ti­ate.

“Their def­i­ni­tion of ne­go­ti­a­tions is to sit down and tell us what they want to do. It’s up to the com­pany and the Govern­ment to be flex­i­ble.”

Each side said it was ready for fresh talks, but each then ac­cused the other of fail­ing to take part.

Paul Plum­mer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Rail De­liv­ery Group, said: “The truth is that these strikes are not about safety, not about jobs and not about cus­tomer ser­vice.”


The strikes on South­ern have been the most dis­rup­tive in 20 years. Govia Thames­link Rail­way failed in its at­tempt to stop­ping the strikes via the courts. On Novem­ber 29, South­ern 377110 ar­rives at East Croy­don.

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