Strike action involving hundreds of conductors on trains across Sussex has caused commuter chaos on the rail lines today (Tuesday April 26).
The first of three 24-hour strikes in the next three weeks began at 11am and forced Southern Railway to run a vastly reduced service, with an amended timetable in place.
Southern reported a good service on the Brighton mainline and Gatwick Express services - but all other lines run by the operator have witnessed a full or partial closure due to the strike
Furious commuters have taken to social media to vent their frustration, while similar 24-hour strikes are planned to start at 11am on Tuesday May 10 and Thursday May 12.
No replacement buses have been organised to accommodate the strike, due to Southern not having enough and the pressure buses would place on the roads network.
A spokesperson for Southern identified Uckfield as among the worst affected areas on the first day of strike action.
Services were suspended at the station because of the number of conductors required to run trains from there, the spokesperson said.
Crawley was ‘much more affected’ than the London metropolitan area for the same reason, the spokesperson added.
In a bid to ease passenger congestion on trains, Southern has declassified first class for today and tomorrow.
The spokesperson said: “There aren’t enough buses available to provide a service and even if there were the road network would not be able to cope.
“They would become swamped and passengers would be waiting and waiting and waiting in the vain hope of getting a bus which they won’t be able to do.”
A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway said services in and out of the capital have faced minor disruption, though services have been ‘full and standing’.
He said: “We ran all but one of our trains this morning against our published contingency timetable - and that was a service running from London, against the flow of commuter traffic.
“It has been difficult for our passengers with services full and standing but we have not had to put in place crowd control measures at our stations.”
Union Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) said guards decided to strike due to the removal of conductors from trains, safety under threat, and Southern putting profit before safety.
RMT said the strike involved hundreds of staff and was ‘rock solid’.
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “Our guards members on Southern are rock-solid and determined this morning as they begin this phase of industrial action in defense of the life-or-death services they provide for the travelling public and against cash-driven cuts that would see those services hacked to ribbons.
“Let us be crystal clear – this dispute is about safety and the safety-critical role of the guards on Southern trains. The company, with an eye on ever-fatter profits, is prepared to axe the guards on some of the most overcrowded and potentially-dangerous services in Britain so that they can squeeze every last penny out of their passengers regardless of the consequences.
“That is a lethal gamble with safety in the name of profit and that is why we have been forced to take strike action today.
“Southern see their passengers as nothing more than self-loading freight, there to be fleeced at every turn and every opportunity. The consequences of removing guards, the human eyes and ears on that dangerous interface between crowded platforms and crowded trains, is blindingly obvious to anyone but the rip-off merchants running this deeply unpopular rail franchise.
“The company have now resorted to trying to bully and intimidate staff taking a stand to defend the safety-critical role of the guard. That is disgusting but nothing surprises us with this mob. The union stands firm and united in today’s action and we urge the public once again to support their rail workers. Our job is your safety.”
A full list of the affected services can be found here.
No Southern trains will operate in either direction on the following routes:
Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes via Kensington Olympia
Dorking to Horsham
Oxted to Uckfield
Haywards Heath to Lewes
Preston Park to Hove
Lewes to Seaford
Eastbourne to Ashford International via Hastings (Southeastern services will operate between St Leonards Warrior Square and Hastings as normal)
Chichester to Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton Central (South West Trains and Great Western Railway services will operate between Havant and Portsmouth Harbour/Southampton Central as normal)
Redhill to Tonbridge
Redhill to Reigate (Great Western Railway services will operate on this route as normal)
Earlswood, Salfords and Faygate stations will not be served
A limited service will operate in both direction between approximately 7.30am and 6.30pm on the following routes:
London Bridge - Norwood Junction - East Croydon - Sanderstead - Riddlesdown - Upper Warlingham - Woldingham - Oxted - Hurst Green - Lingfield - Dormans - East Grinstead
London Victoria - Clapham Junction - East Croydon - Redhill - Gatwick Airport - Three Bridges
Three Bridges - Crawley - Ifield - Littlehaven - Horsham - Christs Hospital - Billingshurst - Pulborough - Amberley - Arundel - Ford - Barnham - Chichester
Brighton - Hove - Aldrington - Portslade - Fishersgate - Southwick - Shoreham - Lancing - East Worthing - Worthing - West Worthing - Durrington - Goring - Angmering - Littlehampton - Ford - Barnham - Bognor Regis
Brighton - London Road - Moulsecoomb - Falmer - Lewes - Glynde - Berwick - Polegate - Hampden Park - Eastbourne
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