Southern Rail strikes are going ahead despite both sides wanting to talk

Oliver Gill
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FILES - This picture taken on 15 April 2
The government announced a "hit squad" to deal with the infrastructure problems that blight the Southern network (Source: Getty)

A 48-hour strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on the Southern Rail network will go ahead on 7 September despite both sides saying that they are available to hold talks to avert industrial action.

The walk-out, the latest in the long-running dispute over the role of guards on the troubled network will start at 00:01 on Wednesday, running until 23:59 on Thursday. Both sides said that no talks beforehand are currently planned.

Read more: Embarrassment, bailout and failure: Politicians blast Southern's £20m fund

“The RMT remains available for serious talks but [Southern Rail owner] Govia Thameslink has no interest in resolving the dispute,” said an RMT spokesperson.

“We would be happy to talk about our plans to introduce on-board supervisors but the RMT has refused to move on our central proposal that a modern train should be able to operate with only a driver on board if absolutely necessary, rather than see that train cancelled at great inconvenience to our passengers,” said a spokesperson for Govia Thameslink.

Last week, the Department for Transport announced a £20m “hit-squad” investment to address the problems on the Southern Rail network. And on Friday, Govia’s majority owner – Go-Ahead group – announced profits of £100m.

Read more: Southern rail owner apologises to commuters as profits grow 27 per cent

“It is clear that the Government are propping them up financially and politically. Just a fraction of the hundred million the parent company is hoarding would be enough to keep a guard on the Southern Rail trains, keep the trains safe and resolve the dispute,” said the RMT.

According to last week's results announcement, Southern Rail was not profitable in the last year and any profits made by Go-Ahead related to other operations such as its bus services.

A source close to the rail operator told City A.M. that almost all of the £20m investment by the DfT would go to Network Rail to upgrade rail infrastructure rather than Southern.