Wealden MP calls on Southern bosses to protect Uckfield passsengers

Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani is calling for RMT chief executive to ensure the Uckfield line is a priority in next month's strike action
Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani is calling for RMT chief executive to ensure the Uckfield line is a priority in next month's strike action

Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani has called on Southern Railway bosses to ensure Uckfield is 'a priority' in next month's 48-hour rail strike.

In a letter to Charles Horton - chief executive of Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) - Ms Ghani asked the rail executive to arrange contingency and replacement services for the town.

The MP's letter comes as the last strike, which was originally scheduled to last five days before being called off after three, left passengers who use the line to Uckfield without any services.

In her letter, Ms Ghani said: "It was with great disappointment that I heard of the RMT union’s decision to hold a further strike on 7 and 8 September, as part of the ongoing dispute which has now plagued my constituents, your passengers, for far too long.

“I fully recognise that the decision to hold this strike is the union’s decision, and theirs alone. As I have made clear on many occasions, I do not believe that their grievances are justified but, instead, that they are motivated by a wish to hold the country to ransom by stopping commuters getting to work and parents getting home to their families. They should be held accountable for the disruption caused, and the stress and inconvenience that is felt by those unnecessarily affected by it.

“However, contingency plans put in place during the strike, and particularly the existence or lack of replacement services, are something which you are accountable for. During the last strike, my constituents were understandably angry that there was no service on the line to Uckfield, and no replacement bus services either. This stood in stark comparison to many other lines, which were much better served. I am writing to request that, as a result, the line to Uckfield is prioritised for contingency or replacement services during this upcoming strike. This is only fair. If it is not possible, I and my constituents would be grateful for an explanation as to why.

“I look forward to your response, as I do to the overdue resolution of this dispute.”

A 48-hour strike has been announced by the RMT union from Wedenesday, September 8 as part of the ongoing dispute between the union and GTR over changes to the role of conductors. A separate 24-hour strike action by RMT station staff will also be held on Wednesday over GTR's plan to reorganise their ticketing services.

Speaking on Thursday (August 25), RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The Govia Thamelink franchise is in meltdown and not fit for purpose. Not content with axing catering services, closing ticket offices and attacking the role of their guards they now want to threaten 130 station jobs and compromise the safety of both their passengers and staff alike. Our members have made it clear that they will not stand by while this basket-case franchise unleashes yet another attack on jobs and services in the drive for profits and that is why we have no option but to take strike action.

“These cuts plans fly in the face of the response from the thousands of passengers who objected to the closure of ticket offices and the de-staffing of stations as Govia drives on with plans for a “faceless railway” where the public are left to fend for themselves on rammed-out, dangerous and unreliable services."

In response to the strike action GTR’s Passenger Services Director Alex Foulds said: “This is a cynical and deliberate stunt by the RMT to try and bring our trains to a standstill by co-ordinating strike action on two fronts on the same day to cause maximum disruption, delay and damage to our passengers’ everyday lives and the economy. The RMT leadership is playing politics with innocent people who are simply seeking to go about their business with employers, family and friends. It is a shameful and pitiful act and shows everyone their true colours and motivation, come what may and whoever they hurt.

“During face-to-face discussions with local union officials from the RMT and TSSA last Monday, we took our original proposals off the table, and agreed new proposals with them - a six months pilot at eight stations using volunteer staff to test the new Station Host role. It was a very productive meeting and the RMT officials present were content to put the revised pilot proposal forward to the RMT leadership for endorsement.

"We are therefore perplexed that they have decided to call this strike day in protest at proposals that no longer exist and when a solution had been found. The only conclusion is they are determined to strike even if there is no longer any justification."

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