England

Southern rail strike: 'Solid support' for second 24-hour strike

Southern carriage with passengers
Image caption Today's 0711 East Grinstead to London Bridge was "very busy"

A second 24-hour strike by Southern rail conductors is being "solidly" supported, according to the RMT union.

Hundreds of trains have been cancelled on one of the busiest routes in the UK, causing travel chaos for passengers.

The walkout by union members started just after midnight and is part of a dispute over the role of guards.

The RMT opposes a new on-board supervisor role and plans for drivers to operate doors. Govia Thameslink said the action was "totally unnecessary".

The operator has insisted there will be no job losses or pay cuts, and the proposals would be implemented.

Live updates on the rail strike

The rail company said it was "evolving" the role of conductors so on-board staff would no longer be responsible for closing doors but would have a more visible presence on trains.

Image caption Southern warned passengers to expect disruption
Image caption There were not many passengers using Brighton station during the morning rush-hour

'Pointless and unnecessary'

Govia Thameslink Railway warned there would be no service on many routes and only a limited service between 07:30 and 1800 BST on others.

However, by 13:00 BST it said the service was operating well with about two thirds of services running.

Chief executive officer, Charles Horton, said: "This pointless and unnecessary action by the RMT causes enormous disruption for the 300,000 people we carry on their commute every day.

"The railway men and women of Britain are overwhelmingly diligent and hard-working, and they care deeply about the rail service they provide.

"But they are being led astray, and misled repeatedly, by trade unions acting in their own narrow, selfish interests and ignoring the interests of either commuters or railway workers themselves."

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Our members have been backed into a corner by this aggressive and unpopular company and have had no option whatsoever but to fight to defend the safety-critical role of the guard on these rammed-out and unreliable Southern routes".

Union members, who staged their first strike action on 26 April, held a protest outside the Department for Transport Rail Industry Day conference in London earlier.

'Angry rhetoric'

The RMT claims train companies nationally are "hell-bent" on removing train and station staff accusing them of putting profits before safety.

Press Association industrial correspondent Alan Jones said the situation was "properly deadlocked".

"The rhetoric is getting angrier by the day," he said.

"Southern says all they are doing is changing the role of the conductor or guard.

"But the unions are very suspicious that this is part of a wider attempt to get rid of guards altogether, which has happened on a lot of trains.

"And with station staff, there is a separate dispute which may well end up in a strike soon about closure of ticket offices across Southern," he added.

Image caption RMT members handed leaflets to passengers outside Brighton station

Govia Thameslink's chief operating officer, Dyan Crowther told BBC Surrey the company would now be implementing its proposals.

"Our staff are starting to make preferences on the type of roles they want to do. We will be retaining some conductors on some coastal services.

"Some staff have already opted to do those roles and some have opted to do the onboard supervisor roles," she said.

Southern warned passengers that queuing systems would be in place at many stations, there may be long waits to board trains, and the company could not guarantee to get people to their destinations.

The company said Gatwick Express and Thameslink services would be largely unaffected.

But some services were expected to be extremely busy and some Gatwick Express trains would be unable to call at certain stations.

Passengers can check Southern's live running page, a map of services during the strike and customer information.

Image caption Southern facts and figures

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