Union blasts ‘garbage’ attack on Southern staff by transport secretary

Transport secretary Chris Grayling pictured last year

Transport secretary Chris Grayling pictured last year

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A rail union has criticised transport secretary Chris Grayling’s ‘garbage’ attack on Southern staff.

In a letter to Sussex MPs last week, Mr Grayling described the strikes held by the RMT union and ‘unofficial action when heavy pressure from national union leaders has prompted large numbers of members of staff to call in sick at the last minute, causing delays and cancellations is wholly unnecessary’.

The union has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern services, for months over plans to change the role of conductors to on-board supervisors on a large part of its rail network, and has called five strikes already this year.

Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “This is complete garbage from the transport secretary and an outrageous assault on the Southern Rail workforce. He has personally chosen to give Southern/GTR a free pass to cancel and wreck services without penalty.”

Earlier this month the Government unveiled a £20m fund and a new project board to turnaround the performance of Southern services.

Chris Gibb, previously chief operating officer of Virgin Trains and now a non-executive director at Network Rail, will be heading up the board.

Mr Grayling explained that although Mr Gibb would report to him, he would be paid by Southern.

He is MP for Epsom and Ewell and his constituency is served by both Southern and South West Trains (SWT).

He explained that the big reason SWT is ‘much better run’ than Southern is because the routes are controlled by a joint team run by both the operator and Network Rail, which over sees both the trains and tracks.

He said: “If something goes wrong, they work together to sort it rather than blaming each other. This is the way I want the Southern network to be run going forward.”

He had looked carefully at how Southern services were working and thought that the relationship between GTR and Network Rail ‘is not working at all well and needs to change’.

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