UPDATE: MPs hit out at under-fire train firm which wants to cancel 350 trains a day

Southern Trains wants permission to introduce an emergency timetable allowing it to cancel another 350 trains a day
Southern Trains wants permission to introduce an emergency timetable allowing it to cancel another 350 trains a day

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UNDER-FIRE Southern Railway has been criticised by Portsmouth MPs after details emerged that it is set to introduce an emergency timetable allowing it to cancel 350 trains a day.

Rail union RMT said it was given the figures at a meeting with company officials from Govia Thameslink, which runs Southern.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who has campaigned for better services from Portsmouth to London, labelled the situation as ‘unacceptable’.

She said: ‘The level of disruption the public has had to endure is completely unacceptable. Part of it is down to industrial relations but ultimately rail franchises are given and the public expect them to be delivered in full.

‘At the moment people are paying not inconsiderate sums of money for tickets and they are not getting the service the franchise should be delivering.

‘This situation has gone on for far too long.

‘I’ll be writing to them to get them to outline what further steps they will be taking to guarantee the availability, reliability and what timetables will be put in place.’

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said she would be taking action too.

She said: ‘Passengers have called for a robust, reliable timetable and I am aware that GTR is considering some changes in order to strengthen its schedule in the face of ongoing disruption, so as many services as possible can run. I hope this can be sorted quickly and will be monitoring the situation.’

Southern services have been hit by a series of delays and cancellations for weeks because of a shortage of staff and strikes in a row over the role of conductors.

The company has blamed high levels of staff sickness for the daily travel chaos being suffered by passengers.

However, RMT general secretary Mick Cash previously said the strikes were necessary as the changes to the conductors’ role would put ‘lives at risk’.

He said: ‘This latest savage attack on passenger services by GTR is nothing to do with staff sickness and everything to do with gross mismanagement of this franchise and the failure to employ enough guards and drivers to fill the current rosters and diagrams.

‘The continuing attempt to blame the front-line workforce for this crisis is a cynical and cowardly ploy that will not wash with the public.

‘The solution of this failing, basket-case franchise is not axing more trains and attacking those trying to hold it together at the sharp end – it is the removal of Govia at the earliest possible point.’

He said Directly Operated Railways was lined up to take over and start running the routes ‘under public control, in the public interest’.

The union and company officials will give evidence to MPs on the Transport Select Committee tomorrow.

A GTR spokesman said the company would be confirming details of a temporary timetable this week.