Southern rail strikes ‘have nothing to do with safety’, MP Nick Herbert says

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Nick Herbert has slammed a rail union for causing the ongoing disruptions with what he called ‘cynical’ and ‘unreasonable’ industrial action.

The Arundel & South Downs MP said that at a meeting with fellow MPs whose constituencies have been affected by the Southern problems, they all agreed the strikes were political and ‘had nothing to do with safety’.

A number of MPs, including Mr Herbert, met with the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, and the rail minister, Paul Maynard, in the Commons on Monday evening, November 14, to raise their concerns.

In a statement, Mr Herbert said: “MPs agreed that the continuing problems were mainly being caused by the rail unions’ unreasonable industrial action.

“The MPs’ strong view was the unions’ behaviour was cynical and political, and had nothing to do with safety.

He said: “It is completely unacceptable that a few hundred employees can cause such chaos on the railway when none of them face job losses or pay cuts.

“A further issue is that while this industrial action continues it is harder to hold the rail operator and Network Rail to account because the unions are behind so much of the problem.”

Mr Herbert said that MPs had also criticised the performance of Southern and Network Rail and called for ‘substantial’ compensation for passengers, to be funded by Govia Thameslink Railway, operators of Southern, for new action that disrupts their journeys.

He said MPs had also recognised the problems of poor infrastructure and called for substantial long-term investment on Southern’s routes.

Mr Herbert said prior to the current industrial action, 60 per cent of delays were caused by track and signalling problems, which are the responsibility of Network Rail.

Mr Herbert added: “Passengers just want action and to know when this dispute will be resolved.

“The current situation cannot be allowed to drift on into the winter.”

The RMT union which has called the strikes claims changes to the role of the conductor which will see drivers operate doors will compromise passenger safety.

The next strikes are set to take place next week on Tuesday to Wednesday.

Southern says 99 per cent of its conductors had now signed up to the new role.

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