England

Southern strike-hit rail users to be compensated

RMT protest
Image caption The dispute relates to driver-only-operated trains and a change in conductors' roles

Passengers affected by a series of strikes on the Southern rail network have been promised more generous compensation by the Prime Minister.

The RMT union has staged walkouts over the introduction of driver-only-operated (DOO) trains and a change in conductors' roles.

Staff have also denied claims an increase in sickness levels is unofficial strike action.

David Cameron said he condemned any action that impinged on journeys.

He made his comments during Prime Minister's Questions in reply to Horsham Conservative MP Jeremy Quin.

Mr Quin said: "For weeks and weeks, my constituents have been struggling with the impact of unofficial industrial action on our railways.

"Not over jobs, not over wages, but over who gets to press a button.

"Will my right honourable friend condemn this in the strongest possible terms and help to resolve those issues?"

Image copyright Southern
Image caption Rail operator Govia Thameslink has said the new system is safe and 40% of Southern trains already use it

The Prime Minister replied: "Our transport infrastructure is a crucial part of our economy.

"I condemn any industrial action that disrupts the travelling public and rail passengers will not thank the RMT and Aslef for their recent unnecessary disruption.

"Frankly, the performance of Southern has been unacceptable and passengers deserve better."

He added: "We'll be providing more generous compensation to passengers affected by the latest strike and the transport secretary will be announcing further details soon."

During last week's strike, the RMT said the dispute was "not about who opens doors".

Mike Lynch, assistant general secretary of the RMT, said he believed the role of train guards was "safety critical".

The Aslef train driver's union also opposed 12-carriage DOO rolling stock but dropped its fight last week.

Rail operator Govia Thameslink has said DOO is safe because the driver can view CCTV in the cab and some 40% of Southern trains already have the system.

After commuters staged protests over continuing disruption and calls were made for the franchise to end, Southern said it was operating under difficult circumstances.

Image caption Commuters have staged protests over ongoing disruption

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