ON: Strikes by Southern train drivers have caused the cancellation of all services on the network for a third day, and the company warned of further severe disruption to come next week when conductors walk out.
About 300,000 passengers were left without their usual service as Southern cancelled all of its 2,242 weekday services on Friday.
An ongoing overtime ban by drivers in the Aslef union will compound the effects of a two-day strike by RMT conductors starting on Monday.
ScotRail commuters given free week of travel after disruption
Prospects for an imminent resolution of the long-running dispute appear remote after talks between Aslef and Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, collapsed on Thursday.
GTR said it had put a “practical offer” to the union for consideration to end the industrial action, but Aslef denied this. Its general secretary, Mick Whelan, wrote to members on Friday saying: ”I regret to advise that at no time during the course of discussions did the company make any kind of formal offer in relation to the substantive issues at the heart of the dispute.”
He added: “Aslef remains committed to finding a negotiated settlement as we have already done with ScotRail.”
GTR said the public would be “simply perplexed”. Its chief operating officer, Nick Brown, said: “We’re sincerely sorry that commuters’ work and family lives are being punished with this unjustified and unprecedented industrial action. The unions must stop the pain and suffering blighting passengers and commerce.”
The dispute has become focused on a move to driver-only operation of trains, which unions say has safety risks and could downgrade the number or quality of jobs in rail.
On Thursday night, a group of commuters marched in protest from Southern’s main London hub, Victoria station, to the Department for Transport to hand in a letter demanding action.
A spokesman for the Association of British Commuters said: “We have suffered a year-long nightmare because of the collapse of Southern rail. We have desperately called for government action and have been repeatedly ignored, even while many of us have lost our jobs or had to move house.”
Katy Davies, one of the organisers of the march, who commutes from south London, said: “This is not just about the financial impact of paying for a service that doesn’t work, but quality of life: people who are losing jobs, patients missing treatment, families who have to arrange emergency childcare, people thrown off trains that aren’t going anywhere late at night.”
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She said Southern services had been unreliable every day, not just during the strikes, adding: “We’re at breaking point and want answers from Chris Grayling [the transport secretary]. If he fails to act, we’d call for his resignation.”
Data released by Network Rail shows that parts of the Southern network recorded their worst punctuality figures in years last month. Just 67.9% of its metropolitan services, operating in Greater London, arrived at their destination within five minutes of the scheduled time in the four weeks to 10 December – the poorest performance for that part of the route in publicly available records dating back to April 2010.
More strikes are planned over the new year period by conductors, while drivers plan a six-day walkout from 9 January, which would be the worst continuous disruption for decades.
National Express, which provided more than 3,000 extra seats on coach services in areas affected by the strike, said it had its busiest day ever recorded for coach travel on the London to Brighton route.
Meanwhile, season ticket holders on ScotRail, who have also suffered a year of disruption, will get a free week of travel paid for by the Scottish government. The compensation, worth £3m, comes after the franchise run by the Dutch firm Abellio has faced heavy criticism for late and cancelled trains.