Tory admits unions not to blame but RMT slams pathetic fine
TRAIN operator Southern’s poor performance is not merely the effect of industrial action, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted yesterday, though rail unions said that the punishment he ordered “doesn’t even stack up to a slap on the wrist.”
Mr Grayling ordered Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs Southern services, to pay for a £13.4 million package of improvements, including the funding of 50 on-board supervisors and projects to benefit passengers, who have been badly affected by delays and cancellations.
Mr Grayling also accused Labour of colluding with trade unions “to bring trouble to passengers” on Southern Railway.
Southern plans to impose driver-only operation (DOO) on its services, which entails scrapping the safety-critical role of guards. For more than a year, RMT and train drivers’ union Aslef have fought back with a campaign with industrial action.
Rail workers at Northern and Merseyrail in Liverpool are also taking action against the introduction of DOO.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This latest whitewash of the Southern rail shambles by the government is hardly a surprise when it’s been up to its necks in this fiasco right from day one.
“This pathetic response to the abject failure by Southern/GTR to deliver on their contract doesn’t even stack up to a slap on the wrist. “No wonder the company is gloating.
“Chris Grayling has let it off the hook big style.”
Mr Grayling was required by a High Court ruling to announce his decision on the force majeure claim by yesterday or face a judicial review into the way he has handled Southern, following an application by the Association of British Commuters.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan pointed out that what Mr Grayling was taking with one hand, he was giving back with the other.
“The DfT has fined Southern £13m, but it has also given Southern £13m to improve services,” Mr Whelan said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for Southern to be taken back into public ownership, saying: “It’s time for the government to do the right thing by passengers and end this Southern misery.”
He added that publicly owned Transport for London should take over “to ensure passengers are given the service they truly deserve.”
And shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald urged ministers to “call time” on GTR.