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Train bosses to be grilled by parliamentary committee over service

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Train bosses to be grilled by parliamentary committee over service

 

A Southern train pulling into Brighton Station (file picture)

TRAIN bosses will be called before a parliamentary committee to answer questions over its service.

Executives from Govia Thameslink Railway – which runs Southern as well as Gatwick Express and Thameslink services – will appear in front of the Transport Select Committee on Monday amid its enquiry on improving rail passenger experience.

The news comes as commuters endured a day of misery yesterday as Southern conductors went on strike.

Services were cancelled across the county with many commuters either taking the day off or working from home.

Train bosses will face 11 MPs on Monday including the member for Bexhill and Battle, Huw Merriman.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield welcomed the news and has asked complaints from constituents form part of the evidence presented during the hearing.

Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney also demanded action from Southern’s management yesterday to end the dispute over jobs and passenger safety with its conductors who oppose a move to driver-only operated trains.

But the company wanted to make clear this was not to answer questions about industrial action and disruption to services.

A spokesman said: “This meeting has been planned for many weeks to discuss improving the rail experience and there will be representatives from Virgin Trains, Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies as well as Govia Thameslink Railway for an hour, followed by a discussion with rail minister Claire Perry.

“The purpose is for the committee to put together a report recommending how the government and industry can improve customer experience.”

He said it follows a meeting on June 6 speaking to transport groups where customer information, tickets, smartcards, the use of social media and disruption was discussed.

Yesterdays action was the third strike in three months over the issue.

Delegates from the annual Unison conference joined an RMT demonstration outside Brighton Railway station yesterday morning.

From the picket line RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members are rock solid in support of the action in the fight to stop the basket-case GTR franchise from ripping apart the safety culture on our railways in the drive for ever fatter profits.

“The union knows when Southern talks about ‘changing the role of the guard’ what they really mean is getting rid of the guard. We have no option but to strike to stop that lethal gamble being bulldozed through. We regret the inconvenience to passengers but our fight for jobs is about protecting passengers’ safety.”

A Southern spokesman said despite the strike, nearly 90 per cent of trains to London Bridge and London Victoria ran on time between 6am and 9am on a revised strike timetable.

A spokesman said: “The RMT has now accepted that jobs are not at risk, and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has nailed their bogus safety claims.

“Given this, passengers are bound to conclude that this strike is about nothing more than the RMT asserting their power to bring the railway to a standstill. Enough is enough, this strike should be the last.”

This follows calls from union bosses for a parliamentary inquiry into the Department for Transport’s handling of the rail dispute.

Rail minister Claire Perry said: “I’ve been clear the current situation is unacceptable and passengers deserve a far better service. I urge the union bosses in the strongest terms to work with the operator to resolve this as a matter of urgency.”