The RMT wants a Christmas truce over Southern rail saga - but says it's in the government's hands

Rebecca Smith
Southern rail passengers have suffered months of disruption
Southern rail passengers have suffered months of disruption

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union wants a Christmas truce over Southern rail - only it says it's up to the government to make it happen.

Commuters are battling through today's second day of delays as a 48-hour strike goes on by guards over proposed changes to their roles. There have been months of disruption on Southern rail with industrial action and walkouts last week by the train drivers' union Aslef resulted in all services being cancelled.

And now the RMT's general secretary Mick Cash said he is happy to meet transport secretary Chris Grayling "to thrash out a workable solution to this longstanding dispute", but said the outcome is in the government's hands.

Read more: Sorry, Southern commuters, your boss can tell you to come to the office

The union has said in three recent agreements on rail contracts spanning Great Western, East Coast and TransPennine Express, the role of conductors has been kept.

"All we are asking is for them to authorise a similar deal on its Southern rail contract. This would provide a basis for a Christmas truce on Southern," Cash said.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the comparison was misleading as the three contracts mentioned don't specify whether services should be run with or without guards, and how services are run on these franchises is up to the respective train companies involved.

Grayling said: “I am deeply disappointed that this totally unnecessary strike action is to continue and cause thousands of passengers more disruption and misery. I have reaffirmed my offer for talks with the unions if they call-off strike action, but they have failed to come to the table."

He has criticised the walkouts as being "politically motivated" and "designed to cause maximum disruption".

Read more: Christmas strikes: Why all the walkouts?

Earlier this month, the government announced over 84,000 Southern commuters would be offered the equivalent of one month's travel, after the months of delays and disruptions to their journeys. Season ticket holders are able to claim for the compensation.

It comes as a new study by the University of Chicester has estimated the economic impact of the Southern rail strikes on the UK being around £300m.

The study led by Dave Cooper, Professor of management and economic development, examined the total cost of the dispute to the country's GDP. It calculated the total economic costs to commuters who were delayed, missed work or had to stay at home and explored the impact on productivity.

Professor Cooper said: "The findings put the impact on the economy at about £11million for every day and, if the next scheduled strike days go ahead, the total would be brought to just under £396million."

He added the total could be higher still as it does not account for other impacts like loss of sales and staff morale.

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