Incompetent train firm heads to High Court in desperate ploy to put brakes on strikes
JUDGES will rule today on a High Court bid to stop more Southern strikes.
Tories appeared to be in full support of the case brought by Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) in a desperate attempt to block industrial action by putting all blame for past and future disruptions squarely on the shoulders of rail workers.
GTR argues that the strikes voted for by members of rail union RMT and train drivers’ union Aslef have unlawfully been restricting passengers’ rights to travel under EU law.
Commons leader David Lidington — standing in for Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday — said: “RMT’s actions show co-ordinated contempt for the travelling public.
“And it seems to do nothing but to bring about the maximum damage to people’s lives.
“This party sides with passengers and I hope Labour will join in saying to rail union leaders: sort it out, put the travelling public first, stop the squabbling and tell your members to get back to work.”
His tirade was in response to union-bashing by Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley — who claimed that the Tories are standing up for better services for passengers.
This comes after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was exposed in a leaked 20113 letter to former London mayor Boris Johnson as opposing devolution of suburban rail routes to Transport for London.
He said it was because he wanted to keep them out of the “clutches” of a Labour mayor — but that he would have “no fears” if the Tories were in charge.
Conservative MP Bob Neill has since slammed Mr Grayling for “not being fit to hold office.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told the Star: “It takes a brass neck for Tory MPs to accuse others of having contempt for the travelling public.”
“To attempt to pin the blame for Southern’s miserable service on unions rather than the incompetence of management and government ministers is an insult to long-suffering passengers.
“Tories are defending Southern to the hilt and have effectively said they won’t end the franchise no matter how bad services get.
“The public need a government who will stand up for passengers against rip-off train companies and bring services back into public ownership.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Tories are in open war over rail policy, with its senior MPs calling for Mr Grayling’s resignation. This is no time for mud-slinging and lies from the front bench.”
RMT members will strike for three days from next Tuesday in concern for passenger safety over GTR transferring the task of closing train doors from on-board guards to the drivers.
Aslef members will stop working overtime next week before the strikes later in the month and in the new year in a row over the driver-only operated trains.