MP demands new action to tackle rail disruption

On Monday I joined MPs representing constituencies affected by ongoing problems with the local rail service in a meeting with the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, and the Rail Minister, Paul Maynard.

The meeting followed weeks of disruption on services on lines in Sussex.  MPs agreed that continuing problems were mainly being caused by the rail unions’ unreasonable industrial action.

Almost all guards have accepted new contracts, and there will be no reductions of pay or job losses.  Our strong view was that the unions' behaviour is cynical and political, and has nothing to do with safety.

But we also criticised the performance of GTR/Southern and Network Rail, and we expressed our deep concern about the impact on our constituents who have been facing repeatedly cancelled trains and overcrowding.

I joined my fellow MPs in calling for substantial compensation for passengers, to be funded by GTR/Southern themselves, and for new action - if necessary through legislation - to prevent unreasonable industrial action on an essential public service.

We recognised the problems of poor infrastructure and again called for substantial long term investment on Southern’s routes.  Before the current industrial action began, 60 per cent of delays were being caused by track and signalling problems which are the responsibility of Network Rail.

We left the Transport Secretary and the Rail Minister in no doubt about the anger of our constituents that these problems are continuing and the need for new action to deal with them.

It is completely unacceptable that a few hundred employees can cause such chaos on the railway when none of them face job losses or pay cuts.

A further issue is that while this industrial action continues it is harder to hold the rail operator and Network Rail to account because the unions are behind so much of the problem. 

Passengers just want action and to know when this dispute will be resolved.  The current situation cannot be allowed to drift on into the winter.

This issue has been a top priority for me.  I met senior managers of GTR/Southern earlier this month, and I have repeatedly raised this issue with rail managers, ministers and in the Commons.  A list of everything I have been doing can be found on my website.

I will continue to work with other MPs to maintain pressure on all concerned to resolve the problems.

Nick Herbert