Now Sussex bishops call for an end to "cycle of blame" in Southern rail strikes

Rebecca Smith
Sussex Bishops said there was a
Sussex Bishops said there was a "moral duty" to address Southern disruption (Source: Getty)

The Southern rail situation just took a rather bizarre twist.

Bishops in Sussex have now stepped into the long-running dispute between the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the train operator over the role of the guards.

Writing to Southern's parent owner Govia, union leaders and the Department for Transport (DfT), the church leaders called for an end to the "circle of blame".

Read more: Southern commuters suffering fresh travel chaos from latest strikes

Bishops said the row was threatening the economic health of communities and needed someone to "lead the way". Those jointly responsible had a "moral duty" to address the damage the disruption is causing, they said.

The letter from the Bishop of Chichester, and backed by the Bishops of Horsham and Lewes, said: "In the context of this rail dispute, we assert the moral obligation of all parties in this dispute to consider first and foremost their duty to provide reliable public transport."

Brighton Hove Albion FC had also waded into the dispute, offering to broker talks between the arguing parties at its Amex stadium.

It came after Southern apologised to football fans after many when left stranded at Falmer station following cancellations last month.

RMT's general secretary Mick Cash: "RMT accepted the offer from Brighton and Hove Albion FC to broker talks and we are making the same positive response to the bishops. It is disgraceful that the government and Southern continue to throw back every offer to bring all the parties together to resolve this dispute."

Read more: Southern rail commuters offered a Christmas windfall

A Southern spokesman said in response to the Brighton offer: "Over the past 10 months we've met face to face with the RMT leadership countless times, including many times at Acas."

He added: "We've made a full and comprehensive offer which they have repeatedly rejected. Nothing will be solved until the RMT agrees to let go of the past and help deliver a better service for our passengers."

Earlier today transport secretary Chris Grayling told Southern rail and unions to sort out the issues themselves. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today, he said: "I don't think it is right and proper for me to insert myself into a negotiation between a private company and a trade union over a strike which I think is politically motivated."

The latest three-day strike got underway today with the RMT walking out at midnight and Aslef starting an overtime ban.

Related articles