DfT claims right to remain silent on cash-for-strikes


The Government has again refused to disclose how much, if any, taxpayers’ money it is giving the owners of South Western Railway (SWR) in financial support as union members begin nearly a month of strike.

The strikes, which will run into the new year, concern the role of guards once drivers are given control of train doors.

An RMT demonstration at Waterloo Station on Monday

SWR runs services from Waterloo to Surrey, Hampshire and beyond.

As Transport Network has reported, SWR’s major shareholder, FirstGroup, has said it was in negotiation with the Department for Transport for ‘strike amelioration’ cash.

On Monday morning the DfT refused to state how much taxpayers’ money it was providing SWR in respect of the current wave strikes, citing ‘commercial confidentiality’.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union said its members were ‘standing rock solid and united’ in a strike he said ‘is solely about protecting safety and accessibility on SWR trains’.

Referring to failed talks with SWR last week, Mr Cash said: ‘RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety-critical role of the guard at the point of despatch, and which would have cost the company absolutely nothing, were kicked back in our faces last week.

‘We can only assume that either they or their paymasters in Government wanted this strike action to go ahead for politically motivated purposes.’

SWR’s managing director, Andy Mellors, told PA Media: ‘We are running over half of our services today, so clearly there is potential for some customers to have trains that are busier than usual.’

However Clare Moriarty, permanent secretary for the Department for Exiting the European Union and a former director general of the rail executive in the DfT criticised SWR for running short formation trains.

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