High Court bid to stop Southern train drivers' strike fails

A High Court bid to stop Southern train drivers from going on strike next week has failed.

Southern strikes are set to go ahead next week
Southern strikes are set to go ahead next week

Union ASLEF has joined the RMT union, which represents train conductors, in calling industrial action over rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s proposals to introduce driver-only operation on Southern services.

This would see drivers open and close train doors on Southern services.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “Naturally we are disappointed. The judge said that such unprecedented strike action by ASLEF would cause massive disruption to the public.

“The judge also said the widespread use of trains using driver operation is perfectly safe both in Southern and elsewhere in the UK.

“We brought this action for the benefit of our passengers. The judge has given us permission to go to the Court of Appeal which we will now consider with our legal team.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: “What a waste of money.

“Southern, Britain’s worst private train company, has wasted shareholders’ money, passengers’ money and taxpayers’ money– because the company has been handsomely subsidised by the Conservative government – on a case it was always going to lose.

“Now the company should do the right thing and sit down with us and negotiate – properly, sensibly and in good faith – to do a deal for the benefit of passengers, staff and, yes, the company.”

He added: “Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, said this strike was political, a line which has been parroted by GTR. But it’s not. It’s industrial.

“The only people who have been playing politics here is Chris Grayling.”

Meanwhile Peter Kyle, Hove MP, said: “The prospects of not a single Southern train running on Tuesday 13th December will be a catastrophe for passengers, businesses and the wider economy during the busy Christmas period.

“There is now no end in sight to this misery. The Government now offers the only way out of the situation so Ministers must stop hiding in the shadows of this dispute and become an active partner in finding a resolution.”

ASLEF has also told its members to stop working overtime from Tuesday (December 6).

Southern has warned passengers to expect ‘severe and significant disruption’ with no services expected to run on ASLEF strike dates, scheduled for Tuesday December 13, Wednesday December 14, Friday December 16, and from Monday January 9 to Saturday January 14.

Passengers on Southern and Gatwick Express have been warned again to expect services to be severely reduced across much of the network on non-strike days from tomorrow (Friday December 9), through the weekend and on Monday as a result of ASLEF’s continued overtime ban.

Southern Director Alex Foulds said: “Tomorrow is the first day when ASLEF’s overtime ban will be felt on a non-strike day. We’re sincerely sorry but passengers are advised services will be severely reduced and, on some routes, cancelled altogether. We will put on rail replacement buses where we can. We urge people to check before they travel on the day.”

Passengers should check the Southern website www.southernrailway.com/strike for more details and are strongly advised to check again on the day they travel.

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