Rail passengers in Eastbourne are facing major delays today (Tuesday, April 26) as Southern conductors begin a 24-hour strike action.
The strike, which will last until 10.59am tomorrow (Wednesday, April 27), has led to the train company cancelling trains from Eastbourne to Hastings and Ashford International and running a reduced service to Brighton.
The move come as Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway look to replace its conductors with on-board supervisors – a new role with fewer responsibilities such as safety checks and operating train doors.
RMT branch secretary Keith Mitchell, who is part of the picket line in Eastbourne toda, said, “We are getting a lot of support from passengers coming up to us today. Its because we are not doing this for better money or conditions. We are doing this to protect our passengers’ safety.
“GTR wants to take away our safety roles. The biggest part of our job is keeping passengers safe and stepping in if something goes wrong with the train or the driver. We all have intensive training to do this.
“If you take that away and something goes wrong there wont be anyone to help.”
Southern dispute the union’s claims the new role would impact safety and have criticised the decision to strike.
In a bid to ease passenger congestion on trains, Southern has declassified first class for today and tomorrow.
The spokesperson said, “There aren’t enough buses available to provide a service and even if there were the road network would not be able to cope.
“They would become swamped and passengers would be waiting and waiting and waiting in the vain hope of getting a bus which they won’t be able to do.”
A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway said services in and out of the capital have faced minor disruption, though services have been ‘full and standing’.
He said, “We ran all but one of our trains this morning against our published contingency timetable - and that was a service running from London, against the flow of commuter traffic.
“It has been difficult for our passengers with services full and standing but we have not had to put in place crowd control measures at our stations.”
Speaking earlier today RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “Let us be crystal clear – this dispute is about safety and the safety-critical role of the guards on Southern trains. The company, with an eye on ever-fatter profits, is prepared to axe the guards on some of the most overcrowded and potentially-dangerous services in Britain so that they can squeeze every last penny out of their passengers regardless of the consequences. That is a lethal gamble with safety in the name of profit and that is why we have been forced to take strike action today.
“Southern see their passengers as nothing more than self-loading freight, there to be fleeced at every turn and every opportunity. The consequences of removing guards, the human eyes and ears on that dangerous interface between crowded platforms and crowded trains, is blindingly obvious to anyone but the rip-off merchants running this deeply unpopular rail franchise.”
Two further 24-hour strikes are expected to be held in May.
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