Southern Rail Strike: Commuters face travel chaos as drivers walk out
All of Southern’s services will be halted – causing the worst disruption since a strike by signal workers in the mid-1990s.
Hundreds of thousands of commuters are facing the worst rail disruption in decades this morning as three days of strikes begin on Southern Rail.
All of Southern’s 2,242 weekday services have been halted due to the action by members of the ASLEF and RMT unions over a long-running dispute about driver-only trains.
Members joined picket lines outside deserted stations at the start of the 48-hour walkout, with another strike planned for Friday, as commuters took the day off, worked from home or attempted to drive, cycle or get the bus to work.
Southern has “strongly advised” passengers not to travel during the action after losing its appeal against a judge’s refusal to grant an injunction blocking the strike.
Commuters have already faced months of disruption because of industrial action, staff shortages and last-minute alterations – and many have said their bosses are getting fed up of staff struggling to get to work.
Passengers started to react angrily to the strike before dawn, with one tweeting: “and so begins my 4 hour journey to work thanks a lot southern. #southernrail #southernFail.”
Reaction to rail strike ruling
Another wrote: “I’m struggling to see the difference in service @SouthernRailUK offers during their Strike action! #southernFail #southernrail.”
One commuter tweeted: “‘Passengers advised not to travel’ – because going to work is a take it or leave it situation. 🙄 #southernFail.”
Others demanded the resignation of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – who has blamed the unions for the months of disruption – and Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink Railway.
Southern, which said it was “sincerely sorry” services were at a standstill, did receive some support. Rick Heyse tweeted: “Solidarity with striking Southern train drivers, striking to put safety first. Remember strike action is the last option. #southernFail.”
The conclusion of the ASLEF strike on Friday will give little respite for passengers, as RMT union guards will walk out on Monday and Tuesday next week over a row with Southern Rail about changes to the role of guards.
They will strike again for three days from New Year’s Eve, while ASLEF is planning a week-long strike from January 9.
The shutdown of Southern’s services this week will affect up to 500,000 passengers and is the worst disruption since the railways were hit by a lengthy strike by signal workers in the mid-1990s.
Mr Horton called the industrial action “wholly unjustified and unnecessary”.
He said: “The widespread use of drivers operating trains is perfectly safe both in Southern and elsewhere in the UK where a third of trains operate this way every day.
“We will now be asking Acas to convene urgent and immediate talks between GTR and ASLEF.
“Our aim is to find a resolution to their dispute so we can bring an end to the misery being suffered by the travelling public.”
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said the union had “tried everything possible” to come to an agreement with Southern.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the “strike action is wholly the responsibility of a Government and a company that have sought to bulldoze through changes that are ill-conceived, finance-led and fraught with danger”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on Aslef to cancel its strike and branded the chaos on Southern’s services “a total disgrace”.