Rail Unions

The five day strike by RMT on GTR/Southern rail this week has massively inconvenienced passengers.

It's not as though GTR/Southern's services were only disrupted this week.  They have been abysmal since the industrial action started in May.

Most of the blame has been laid at the door of the company.  And it's true that their service before the dispute began was poor.

I led the charge in calling meetings and Commons debates to put pressure on them - and Network Rail - to improve.

60 per cent of the delays before May were caused by track or signalling problems.  But things were beginning to get better - until the dispute over the introduction of modern trains started.

Staff effectively started working to rule.  Driver 'sickness' went up by a third and their willingness to work overtime as normal went down by a third.

The result of of this catastrophic collapse in workforce availability was multiple train cancellations.

Having looked into the matter closely, I am absolutely sure that most of the blame for the serious disruption in services this summer lies with the unions.

Safety is not an issue, as they claim, because six out of ten GTR trains already have the driver-only operated doors which they object to.  The independent Rail Safety & Standards Board says there is no evidence of safety problems.

No staff will lose their jobs or have a pay cut.  In fact their pay will rise for the next two years at least.  And most trains which have a guard now will still have a second member of staff on board.

So the union objections are bogus.  It appears that the dispute is part of a wider resistance by the unions to rail modernisation across the network.

It's no surprise that the RMT have now called strikes on Eurostar trains, too.

Just 303 GTR/Southern guards voted for industrial action, causing the disruption of hundreds of trains a day over an extended period.

I think we need to consider whether the actions of a small number of staff should be capable of so easily disrupting an important public service.

Passengers have suffered for too long.  The situation is unacceptable.

I am pleased that the RMT have now called off strikes for Thursday and Friday to enter talks at ACAS.

The rail unions should now drop their selfish and disruptive industrial action altogether and reach a sensible agreement with GTR/Southern.

Nick Herbert