A package of measures unveiled this morning to improve the performance of Britain’s worst performing rail network was blasted by both Labour politicians and the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced a £20m investment to improve performance on the Southern Rail network.
Labour MP – and former leadership frontrunner – Chuka Umunna said:
This package of measures is welcome but it is a disgrace commuters...It beggars belief that Southern Rail is not in breach of its franchise when they have provided an utter joke of a service for many months.
Umunna also called on the government to take full control of the network:
Simply ploughing more money in will not solve the problems of the poor management of this franchise. Given the Government is having to step in like this, it simply strengths the case for the franchise being taken into public ownership as soon as possible.
Meanwhile the RMT union – which is currently locked in a second day of talks with Southern to avoid a 48-hour walk-out next week – criticised the initiative.
General Secretary Mick Cash said:
This stinks of another multi-million pound taxpayer subsidy to bail out the failing Southern rail part of the Govia Thameslink franchise. If there’s money to prop up this private outfit why isn’t there cash available to make sure that the guards and safety are protected on their trains?
If this huge chunk of money was allocated to maintaining the safety-critical role and the jobs of the train guards on the Southern services we could have avoided the strike action that has been forced on us again next week by the penny-pinching, profiteering and intransigence of Southern/Govia Thameslink.
Industrial action is currently planned by the RMT union on the beleaguered network for 48 hours starting on 7 September in relation to the role of guards on trains.
In a separate dispute, a concurrent 24-hour strike (starting on 7 September) was also timetabled by the RMT over the future role of station staff and the closure of ticket offices but has been called off today following "significant progress" through conciliation talks.
On Tuesday, further strike action on the Southern network – this time by train driver union Aslef – was averted after a ballot, which was widely believed to vote in favour of industrial action, was called off.