The Southern rail strike: Your questions answered

A sign inside Victoria Station in London, as hundreds of thousands of rail passengers face a week of travel chaos because of a five-day strike in an escalating dispute over the role of conductors. 
Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
A sign inside Victoria Station in London, as hundreds of thousands of rail passengers face a week of travel chaos because of a five-day strike in an escalating dispute over the role of conductors. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Police at the scene near Waddesdon 810054fd-364c-4ef5-84d3-89d35d70

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Southern Railway passengers are facing a week of travel chaos because of a five-day strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) in a long-running row over the role of conductors.

Q: What is the dispute about?

A: Southern, part of the huge Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, want drivers to have responsibility for closing train doors.

Q: Why are Southern doing this?

A: The company says on-board staff will be able to focus on helping passengers, insisting this will offer a better service.

Q: Will any jobs be lost?

A: Southern says no jobs will be affected, pay will not be reduced, and the same “safe and tested” method is already in operation on 40% of its network.

Q: So why is the RMT opposed to the move?

A: The union believes safety would be affected if the role of conductors is changed, especially with the relentless rise in passenger numbers.

Q: Does the union accept the assurances on jobs?

A: The RMT is suspicious that giving responsibility to drivers will downgrade the role of conductors and could lead to job cuts in the future.

Q: Is the strike being well supported?

A: The turnout in a ballot of members was 81%, with 77% backing action, well above the threshold being brought in under the new Trade Union Act. The RMT said today’s walkout was being “solidly” supported.

Q: Was any progress made at last week’s talks?

A: The two sides spent three days at the conciliation service Acas but the talks collapsed, with a deal further away than ever. No more talks are planned.

Q: How bad is the disruption?

A: Southern had already cut 341 trains from its timetable because of staff shortages and will only run 60% of trains this week.

Q: How are passengers reacting?

A: Southern has faced criticism for months because of delays and disruption, with a number of protests held by commuters and other travellers.

Q: Is Southern facing any more strikes?

A: Two other rail unions are balloting for industrial action - the TSSA over ticket office closures and the drivers’ union Aslef over claims of a breakdown in industrial relations.

Q: Is the Government doing anything to resolve the dispute?

A: Ministers have condemned the union for the strikes, but the RMT has accused the Transport Department of “sabotaging” last week’s talks.