Football club's bid to end Southern Rail dispute '˜turned down flat'

The bitter Southern Railway dispute remains deadlocked after an appeal from a football club's board for the government to intervene was '˜turned down flat'.

Friday, 25th November 2016, 11:53 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:40 pm
Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club director Martin Perry wrote to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, calling for him to ‘urgently intervene’ in the dispute between Southern and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union over changes to the role of conductors.

His call followed chaotic scenes at the end of Brighton’s game with Aston Villa last week when trains were cancelled, leaving thousands of fans stranded.

In a statement the Department for Transport said: ‘Improving services for Southern passengers - including Brighton and Hove Albion supporters - is a priority for the government and for the operator.

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‘Chris Grayling has unveiled a package of measures, including a Network Rail £20 million fund and he appointed Chris Gibb, a senior industry expert, to lead a new project board this autumn as we take steps to deliver a rapid improvement in services.

‘We have also announced that passengers on Southern will be able to claim compensation if their train is more than 15 minutes late.’

The statement made no mention of the call for the Government to hold talks with the RMT.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash accused the Transport Secretary of “slamming the door” in the faces of passengers and staff.

He said: ‘RMT made it clear that the union was prepared to take up the offer of talks between ourselves, Southern Rail and Chris Grayling as suggested by Brighton and Hove Albion FC.

‘The fact that the offer has been turned down flat by both the Government and GTR (Southern’s owners) shows in clear daylight that neither of them have any intention of resolving this dispute.

‘That disgraceful, pig-headed attitude is the root cause of the continuing action.

‘The union has been calling for a meeting with Chris Grayling for months and it is frankly ludicrous that it has taken the intervention of the football club, and the shocking events at Brighton’s Amex Stadium, to force the pace on this.’

A Southern spokesman said: ‘Over the past 10 months we’ve met face to face with the RMT leadership countless times, including many times at Acas, to try and agree a way forward to implement our plans to modernise our services.

‘We’ve made a full and comprehensive offer which they have repeatedly rejected.

‘Nothing will be solved until the RMT agrees to let go of the past and help deliver a better service for our passengers. ‘Until that happens more meetings are pointless and we are pressing ahead with our plans.’