Andrew Stuart 

Students are set for fresh delays and cancellations to train services as Southern Rail workers announce further strike action to hit the holiday period.

The RMT union will strike from midnight on December 22 to midnight on December 24, and continue from New Year’s Eve until January 2.

The strikes are in response to the long running dispute between the RMT and GTR over the role of conductors and the introduction of driver-only operated trains.

Mike Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “Our members are being forced to take further industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service on Southern Rail”.

Cash has also made it clear that the strike action will not be ending any time soon and have accused parent company Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) and the government of having no interest in resolving the issue.

The dates chosen by the Union will come at a time when many students rely on the rail service to return home to family and friends elsewhere in the country, as well as attend New Year’s festivities.

Student Elin Morris, 23, said: “This has been going on for too long. Don’t they think if they were going to get somewhere it would’ve happened by now?

“I think to plan strike action around Christmas and new year is pretty appalling.”

They added they will have to plan their journey home to Cardiff around the new set of strikes.

Govia spokesperson Angie Doll criticised the latest strike action and said: “The union leadership has stooped to a new low by calling strike dates over the Christmas period.

“These past eight months of strikes have had a profound effect on both passengers and our staff.

“The travelling public is sick and tired of the continuing disruption to their lives and are very angry, and rightly so.”

Student Falcone Geddes, who uses the Southern rail service to travel to and from Falmer each day, said: “It’s something [the strike action] that annoys me and has annoyed me in the past a great deal.

“I respect that people have a right to make a statement in the workplace regarding their work conditions, but I think it’s truly a shame because at the end of the day it’s the consumer who suffers.”

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, has stated that the changes will not put jobs or safety at risk and will give passengers a better service.

The news follows plans by the Association of British Commuters (ABC) to take the Department of Transport to court due to a lack of intervention in the crisis.

Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC, said: “It is absolutely staggering that the Secretary of State can allow this situation to continue and this can only mean one of two things.

“Either he is aware of the problems commuters are facing and chooses to do nothing, or he is not aware and has failed to adequately inform himself of the devastating impact on commuters’ lives.”

 

Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Tom Robinson

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