HUNDREDS of trains were cancelled today as Southern rail conductors walked out in a row over changes to their role.
The second round of strike action has had a significant effect on Southern services this morning including the south coast route through Portsmouth and is expected to hit services for the rest of the day.
The strike by members of the RMT union is against changes to the on-board conductors’ role, which would see drivers open the doors instead of them.
It started at midnight and will continue until midnight tonight.
There will be no services on Southern Rail on many routes and only a limited service between approximately 7.30pm and 6pm on others.
Southern Rail, which is operated by Govia Thameslink, said the action was ‘unnecessary’.
It said it had met with the RMT about the changes eight times since December and written to them repeatedly.
Dyan Crowther, GTR chief operating officer, said: ‘Despite repeated efforts over six months, the RMT Union seem unwilling to talk properly about this. Our door remains open to talks but they seem determined to inflict another day of misery on Southern commuters. It’s time for them to come back to the negotiating table, and talk sensibly about these changes.
‘The only thing that changes is the new conductors will no longer close the doors, a task that passes to the driver with the aid of CCTV. This will cost no-one their jobs, and frees up staff on board trains to better serve passengers.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash hit back at the claims and accused Southern of a ‘disgraceful campaign of misinformation’.
He said: ‘The hard fact is that this company does not employ enough staff to fill the rosters and is carrying significant levels of vacancies. They do that because it saves them money and allows them to pump up the profits which can then be shipped across the Channel to subsidise their operations in France.
‘For Southern/GTR to try and turn the blame for this staffing crisis onto the union is ludicrous when the public can see clearly that the fault lies squarely with this penny-pinching outfit who will stop at nothing to fleece this franchise, and its passengers, for every penny that they can.
‘It is scandalous that the company have blocked attempts to reach a negotiated settlement and it’s about time they stopped the lies, and the bullying and the intimidation of their safety-critical guards, and started serious and meaningful talks with the union.’