Portsmouth leader warns businesses could be hit hard by Southern rail crisis

THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has warned the escalating Southern Rail strikes could have a crippling impact on businesses.

Wednesday, 10th August 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:52 pm
Donna Jones

Councillor Donna Jones says major disruption to the rail network caused by conductors taking industrial action is resulting in people struggling to get to work, which could hit firms in the pocket.

And she also fears that more people are being pushed on to roads and into their cars, adding to the region’s traffic problems.

Yesterday marked the second day of strike action by Southern workers as they remain locked in a dispute with company bosses over plans to change their duties and take away their ability to open and shut train doors, which they say could put passenger safety at risk.

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The RMT union, which represents workers, says it is eager to resolve the row before it gets any worse.

Cllr Jones said: ‘The strike situation is having a huge knock-on effect across the south-east region, particularly for businesses focused on tourism, and cities like Portsmouth and Southampton.

‘The knock-on effect of people not being able to get between the two cities via the railway is more pressure being piled on our roads.

‘This is a very poor situation to be in, particularly in the summer months when we have thousands of people working in tourist-related jobs across the south coast, and this will have a financial effect on many businesses.

‘I would urge Southern to bring this to a conclusion as quickly as possible, and I call into question the validity of a strike when so few members voted in favour of strike action.’

No trains are in operation between Chichester and Havant and only trains run by other companies are running between Portsmouth and Southampton. Meanwhile, the government faces protests over the crisis.

The RMT union was set to demonstrate outside the Department for Transport today amid claims that it has put a blockade on talks to end the bitter dispute.

The union said it was ‘within an inch’ of reaching an agreement last week and repeated its claim that the government had ‘sabotaged’ any deal. The Campaign for Better Transport and a Southern passenger group, the Association of British Commuters, plan to march to the DfT to call on the government to take urgent action.