RMT calls for 'basket case' rail firm Southern to lose its services after low passenger trust results

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UNION bosses have demanded a rail firm that runs through Portsmouth be stripped of its services after it was named the least trusted operator for a second year running.

Figures from Transport Focus show Southern was given ‘notably low scores for trust’ across its past four passenger surveys. 

A Southern train, pictured as the train operator scored the worst levels of public trust out of all rail companies over the past two years, according to a new report. Picture; Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

A Southern train, pictured as the train operator scored the worst levels of public trust out of all rail companies over the past two years, according to a new report. Picture; Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

It scored a lowly 17 per cent in spring and autumn 2017, rising only to 22 per cent in the latest poll in autumn 2018 – the lowest of any train operator. 

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which has had a public row with Southern over guards since 2016, has today launched fresh calls for the company to lose its services. 

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘For over three years RMT members have been warning that Southern is a basket case franchise, cutting corners on safety and service and not fit to run a railway.  

‘These latest shocking figures prove that we have been right all along.’ 

He added: ‘GTR, which is the group operation including Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern, are specialists in failure who should have been removed from the tracks by Chris Grayling ages ago but instead he has chosen to bail them out and prop them up at taxpayer expense regardless of what depths they plumb.

‘RMT will continue to fight for the return of the guards, for safety and access to come first and for the whole lot to brought into the public sector.’ 

RMT members have staged numerous strikes since Southern announced plans to increase the number of driver-only trains it runs. 

These services, which do not have guards, see drivers open and close doors at stops – in a bid for less disruption. 

The firm has rubbished the union’s plea, claiming its service is only getting better. 

A spokesman for Govia Thameslink Railway, which owns Southern, said: ‘This report reflects the disruption caused to Southern passengers by strike action through 2016 and 2017.

‘We made the changes opposed by the RMT union more than two years ago, since then we have been running more trains with a second crew member on board, providing more help to passengers, with fewer cancellations.

‘Southern’s punctuality has improved by 22 percentage points, and is now at record levels, with passenger satisfaction also up.

‘Safety was never an issue: the leading industry safety bodies have confirmed that door operation by drivers is at least as safe as by conductors.’ 

Southern runs services from Portsmouth Harbour and Portsmouth and Southsea stations to destinations including Brighton, Chichester, Southampton and London Victoria.