Southern rail summer strike saga worsens as RMT union announces fresh dates and threatens to spread dispute

Rebecca Smith
The RMT said members must continue to send Southern a clear message
The RMT said members must continue to send Southern a clear message (Source: Getty)

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has announced new summer strikes on Southern rail in its long-running dispute with the train firm over changes to the role of the guard.

The walkouts, planned across Tuesday 1 August, Wednesday 2 August, and Friday 4 August, are set for the same days as those announced by train drivers' union Aslef yesterday. Aslef said its action will involve up to 1,000 members.

Read more: Southern rail faces summer strike saga as Aslef sets new walkout dates

Yesterday, it was announced that Southern owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) will be fined £13.4m by the Department for Transport to fund improvements, with transport secretary Chris Grayling saying industrial action on Southern rail "does not fully explain" the poor service that passengers on the network have received.

The new strikes will heap more misery on long-suffering passengers who have dealt with more than a year of severe delays and cancellations as Southern's row with the unions goes unresolved.

In a letter to members, general secretary Mick Cash, said:

I urge you all to continue your magnificent support for your union that has been so clear throughout this dispute.

We must continue to send Southern (GTR) a clear message that we will not allow them to strip the railway of a safety critical second member of staff.

A spokesperson for GTR said in response to Aslef's strike plans yesterday that the timings were deliberately planned "to cause maximum disruption for passengers".

"We absolutely need to modernise in order to increase capacity on this, the most congested part of the UK's network, where passenger numbers have doubled in places in as little as 12 years," they said. "That requires modernisation of infrastructure, trains and working practices. The trade unions must join us in that endeavour."

The RMT also warned today that action over so-called driver-only operation could spread to South West Trains, after failing to receive assurances from new operators of the franchise, First Group and MTR.

The union expressed its "anger and frustration" at what it said was a lack of a guarantee from First MTR.

Cash said: "The union is now seeking a meeting with the company to gain assurances on all the issues we have raised with them. If no assurances are forthcoming then our executive committee will consider the use of all other options at their disposal.”

Read more: Grayling says strikes don't fully explain Southern rail's poor performance

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