Strike action causes travel chaos on UK Southern Rail
British passengers are experiencing overcrowding, delays and chaos due to a three-day strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union over disputes with Southern Rail.
More than a third of Southern services was canceled on Tuesday, when the walkout started causing widespread disruption to rail transportation.
Overrunning engineering works on the Brighton mainline encountered problems on the same day, leaving rush-hour trains from the south coast cancelled or delayed by up to an hour.
At East Croydon station, South London, “there was a lot of pushing and shoving and some passengers were becoming quite vocal at the staff and rough with one another,” said passenger Ellie Odurny.
“There was a chap who swung an elbow into someone’s face to get in front of them to the gate, and other people really physically pushing each other out of the way just to get to the platform,” Odurny said, adding, “There was a lot of foul language being shouted too, which is just downright unpleasant.”
The strike began over a six-month-long dispute between Southern Rail and the RMT union, whose leaders are set to meet face-to-face on Wednesday to resolve the issue.
In a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, Southern CEO Charles Horton said: “I’m prepared to free my diary from tomorrow morning onwards to meet and to show your serious intent, I would like the RMT to call off the rest of the strike action planned for this week.”
Cash said talks were a golden opportunity to break the deadlock over the roles of Southern Rail conductors.
Southern, whose trains link parts of Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire with London, is introducing driver-only operation and wants conductors to accept new on-board supervisor roles.
While the RMT believes having such supervisors instead of conductors will lower safety standards, Southern argues they will be “safety trained”, rather than “safety critical,” noting there is a grey area over the difference.
The row between the two sides is rapidly deteriorating and there seems to be no quick resolution to their dispute.