Southern Railway says it plans to provide a replacement bus service to Uckfield during next week's strike action following criticism of the rail company by the town's MP.
Southern says it hopes to run a limited replacement service - which will also call at Crowborough, Buxted and Eridge - as RMT conductors hold a fresh round of walkouts between Tuesday October 11 and Thursday October 13. There will be no rail services during the strike and the bus - which travels between Hayward's Heath and Tunbridge Wells - will only run at peak times.
During earlier strike action by the union, Southern cancelled all rail services on the line without providing a replacement service for passengers. The decision was criticised by Wealden MP Nus Ghani who said the company was 'irresponsible' and showing 'disregard' to residents .
Ms Ghani says she was able to secure the replacement service following a 'heated telephone conversation' with GTR chief executive Charles Horton as well as meetings between herself, Mr Horton and the Department for Transport.
She said: “When the Uckfield line is running as normal, it is noted as the misery line, so it has been totally irresponsible of Southern not to have prioritised and planned for the strike action, abandoning my constituents.
"I am pleased that my pressure, supported by evidence from my constituents that shows the misery they have to go through, has now paid off and we have been given replacement buses for future strikes.
“This dispute unfortunately shows no sign of ending, so it was important that we secured some relief for my constituents on the strike days to come. When we aren’t able to travel to and from London, it hurts the economy and businesses, it disrupts family life and it causes huge inconvenience and stress. These buses will now go a little way towards minimising this.
“In the long run, we still need the RMT union to come to their senses and end this unnecessary and unjustified dispute. It is irresponsibly causing huge aggravation and disruption, and the sooner it ends the better. Then we can concentrate on securing long-term improvements which return the service to a level which far exceeds even the pre-strike performance that Southern provided, which was far from good enough even before the dispute began.
“I would like to thank all of the constituents who have worked with me to secure these replacement buses. I know that the long term victory will only come when the RMT union stop abandoning passengers and when Southern provides a service that reflects its timetable and is worth the huge amount of money that passengers pay for it.”
UPDATE: In response to Ms Ghani's comments, a Southern spokesman said: "Passenger numbers on the Uckfield Line have increased substantially in the last ten years and we know that at times, journeys have been uncomfortably crowded.
"However, platforms at 12 stations along the route have been lengthened to accommodate 10-car trains and our passengers are now beginning to enjoy the benefit of additional carriages, the last of which will be in service shortly.
"We are pleased to be able to provide buses this time around - something we weren't able to do before, but, we would rather run a train service for our passengers and so we urge the RMT union to call off this futile and highly damaging series of strikes."
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