England

Southern blamed for written warnings to late commuters

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Media captionPeter Kyle MP questioned the rail minister

Commuters have received written warnings for consistent lateness at work because of "shameful" service from Southern Railway, an MP has claimed.

Southern Railway trains from the south coast into London have been disrupted for weeks because of industrial action and high levels of staff sickness.

"The shambles we have seen is turning into a crisis," said Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade.

But rail minister Claire Perry insisted services were improving.

'Shameful performance'

Mr Kyle told the House of Commons during transport questions: "I'm getting people writing to me who are being late for work every day and their bosses are giving them written warnings now.

Mims Davies, Tory MP for Eastleigh, described Southern Railway's performance as "shameful" and said it could not be tolerated.

The watchdog Transport Focus has published figures showing passenger satisfaction was lower on Southern and Southeastern services than for any other train operator in the country.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, urged Ms Perry and the Department for Transport to transfer the Southern franchise into public ownership.

Image caption The RMT dispute relates to driver-only operated trains and a change in conductors' roles
Image caption Commuters have staged protests at Brighton over ongoing disruption on Southern trains

One commuter's story

A man who commutes to London from Hove told BBC South East his employer could no longer book early client meetings as he had no idea whether he would turn up.

"I am therefore simply not fit for purpose and there is nothing concrete to suggest that the situation will change," he said.

"His [the boss's] response is entirely rational.

"My options are therefore to live in London during the week, waving my young family goodbye and switching my pension contributions into accommodation costs, or get fired."


The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is in dispute with Southern about the role of conductors.

Ms Perry said investment on the routes meant things were "getting better".

But she added: "If your constituents would like to write to bosses, may I suggest they write to the union bosses involved, who I think are doing their members a grave disservice by bringing them out on completely unjustified grounds.

"This is a dispute about who presses the buttons that operate the doors and the change in the role of the second staff member."

Southeastern and Network Rail said that at the time of the Transport Focus survey, between 11 January and 20 March, factors including the partial collapse of the sea wall at Dover and landslides at Barnehurst affected trains.

Storm Imogen also hit services and there were infrastructure failings around London Bridge.

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