Campaigners have given ministers a list of demands to help tackle the ‘failing’ Southern Railway franchise, as strikes over driver only operation (DOO) hit north and south of the border.
Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) has written to ministers calling for immediate and longer-term changes to address poor service levels on parts of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise which is operated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
A picket line at Edinburgh Waverley
In a letter to rail minister Claire Perry, CfBT chief executive Stephen Joseph OBE called for GTR to be issued with targets to pay a higher percentage of compensation due to passengers.
He also called for a thorough review of the franchise and recommended ‘serious consideration be given to establishing a new franchise structure’, providing local management and accountability, ‘drawing on the examples of Merseyrail and London Overground’.
CfBT public transport campaigner Lianna Etkind added it was ‘an outrage’ that the Government recently amended the company’s franchise agreement to allow more cancellations, by agreeing to its remedial plan.
She said the Government should ‘agree mechanisms so performance levels do not fall to such levels again’.
The calls came as the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union held a strike on GTR’s Southern services today (21 June) in an ongoing dispute over the company’s plans to change the role of conductors (guards) and move to more DOO.
RMT members in Scotland also walked out today in the first of six strikes in a dispute with Scotrail over the same issue.
The union said talks on the dispute had been planned for Monday through ACAS but Scotrail had notified it that it would not be attending.
Scotrail said it remained committed to holding further talks in a bid to avoid any action and in the meantime was putting plans in place to run as many trains as possible
Scotrail managing director Phil Verster said: ‘This strike is totally needless. The RMT have refused point blank to talk to us about how we modernise and improve Scotland’s railway. Instead they have hidden behind a national policy that says that nothing must ever change. Tens of thousands of our customers will be disrupted and hundreds of our own people will be hit financially as a result of their intransigence.’
The company also quoted the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as describing DOO as ‘a safe method of working’, following a report on Transport Network last week.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash countered: ‘The ORR is actually entirely funded by the Government. The idea that they are independent in any way on this issue is beyond contempt.’