Southern Rail admits ‘absolutely shocking’ advert was a mistake

File photo dated 11/06/15 0f a Southern Train as most rail passengers oppose plans to remove guards from trains, according to a survey ahead of a fresh strike over the role of conductors. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 17, 2016. See PA story INDUSTRY Rail. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire PPP-160519-120829001
File photo dated 11/06/15 0f a Southern Train as most rail passengers oppose plans to remove guards from trains, according to a survey ahead of a fresh strike over the role of conductors. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 17, 2016. See PA story INDUSTRY Rail. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire PPP-160519-120829001
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A rail executive has admitted than an ‘absolutely shocking’ advertising campaign urging passengers to contact the union at the centre of a bitter safety dispute was a mistake.

The move by Southern Rail led to a flurry of complaints by passengers against the company rather than the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union.

Members of the union have been taking industrial action for months in protest at changes to the role of conductors, with the next 48-hour strike set to start tomorrow.

Lambeth councillor Ed Davie told Alex Foulds, deputy chief operating officer of Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway, that he could not believe the company would spend tens of thousands of pounds on the ‘absolutely shocking’ newspaper adverts.

Mr Foulds said the adverts were a ‘mistake’, but added that the union had also made mistakes and that the current climate was ‘very tense’.

He apologised for the level of service being provided by Southern, whose services have been delayed, disrupted or cancelled for months because of the industrial action, staff shortages and other problems.

He conceded that Southern was the worst-performing train operator in the country ‘by some distance’.

RMT members will strike tomorrow and Wednesday, with further industrial action planned next month including just before Christmas and over the new year.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef on Southern are currently voting on whether to go on strike in a row over driver-only trains.