Rail strikes have made a huge multi-million pound dent in the local economy.
Christina Ewbank, chief executive of Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, said the strike has cost £308 million to the local economy across the south east and that businesses in the region were increasingly frustrated with the Government’s approach to the issue.
Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, who held a meeting with Mick Cash of the RMT and Mick Whelan of ASLEF this week, said Eastbourne “cannot sustain another 12 months of this” and reiterated the damage that was being done to businesses and employees, some of whom have lost jobs as a result of the dispute.
Speaking after the meeting, he said, “Today showed how ludicrous it is that the Transport Secretary apparently can’t get the RMT and ASLEF to meet in the same room, yet I manged to!
“Not only that but we heard a clear commitment from both unions that planned strikes would be cancelled if Mr Grayling agreed to meet with the union leaders.
“I call that a fair offer, so urge the Secretary of State to accept [see page 5 for the latest].
“Today was not about me standing up for unions or bashing the Government, it was about getting a resolution to stop the awful frustration being felt by Eastbourne and the South East at the dispute, which is now entering its 16th month.
“Our message is clear; Chris Grayling now needs to step up. The ball is entirely in his court now. ”
Mr Whelan said, “I thank Stephen for facilitating this meeting today. It shows his commitment to finding a solution to this dispute that he has been able to bring the two unions together in one room – far more than the Transport Minister has managed.
“We want a safe rail network for our passengers, that is what we are fighting for and if that is guaranteed to us, we will negotiate.”
Mr Cash, of the RMT, added, “This dispute has never been about money, it is about the safety and accessibility of the rail network. Whilst it was great to be sat round a table with Stephen, it is Chris Grayling that we need to be meeting with. I echo Stephen’s call to Mr Grayling to pick up the phone and make those meetings happen.”
See page 5 for the latest on the stand-off – and an exclusive Sussex Newspapers interview with Mr Grayling.