England

Southern rail strike: GTR offers talks to end five-day strike

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Media captionPassengers using Three Bridges station in West Sussex on Tuesday expressed their frustration at the on-going disruption

Rail firm Govia Thameslink (GTR) has invited the RMT union to talks "any time, any place, anywhere" in a bid to end a five-day conductors' strike.

Southern passengers are enduring a second day of disruption with 946 services cancelled.

GTR called on the RMT to end "this pointless, needless and senseless" action.

The union claimed negotiators were "within an inch" of a deal before it was blocked by the government

Image caption Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the RMT strikes had to stop

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling urged the union to get back to the negotiating table.

"Passengers on Southern rail services are being made to suffer unnecessary inconvenience and disruption to their journeys because of the actions of RMT who are holding them to ransom," he said.

"It has to stop.

"The union should accept the generous offer being made to them by the train operator and get their members back to work.

"Workers' jobs and salaries have been protected but the RMT is still determined to stand in the way of progress," Mr Grayling claimed.

Image caption Much of the Southern network across Sussex and east Surrey has either no rail service or a "significantly reduced" daytime-only service

Southern Rail strike: Live updates

Southern said nine out of 10 services in its strike timetable were running on time.

But only 51% of Southern's normal timetable ran to time on Monday and the walkout in the long-running dispute is due to continue until 23:59 BST on Friday.

GTR claimed one in five conductors on its roster "defied RMT pressure" and came to work. The union insists its support was "rock solid".

The union plans to protest outside the DfT on Wednesday.

It called the strike in opposition to GTR's plans to turn conductors into "on-board supervisors" from 21 August with drivers taking over responsibility for opening and closing carriage doors.

The RMT said it "cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised".

Future on the line in Southern rail dispute

GTR said its eight-point offer, which was rejected on Friday, involves no redundancies but it wanted agreement on a list of "exceptional circumstances" when a train could run with only one member of staff on board.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Rail workers formed a picket line opposite London Victoria station on Monday

Rail Minister Paul Maynard has faced calls to intervene in talks or take control of the GTR franchise for himself or Transport for London.

But, in a letter to MPs at the weekend, he wrote: "I do not believe that ministers should be involved in a negotiation of this kind."

'Moving the deckchairs'

He said TfL "does not have the expertise" to run a main line route from Cambridge and Bedford to Brighton.

"My prime concern is to get the problems sorted out, rather than focussing on the franchise agreement and the contracting of the route.

"I think any changes would have to obviously improve the situation for passengers otherwise they would simply be about moving the deckchairs."

Image copyright Getty Images

'This cannot go on'

Conservative MP for East Surrey Sam Gyimah said the government should consider "all options".

He told BBC Surrey on Tuesday: "All options should be on the table.

"This cannot go on. It is affecting the local economy."

Mr Gyimah said he wanted Mr Grayling "to get a train service that operates and functions as it should do in the 21st Century".

Image caption Commuters waited at Three Bridges station for the limited service to London

See Southern's map of revised rail services during the strike

Much of the Southern network across Sussex and east Surrey has either no rail service or a "significantly reduced" daytime-only service.

The only sections with a "normal service" are Balham - West Norwood, Sutton - Epsom Downs, Dorking - Leatherhead, Purley - Caterham and Purley - Tattenham Corner.

Southern has also warned of "extremely busy" trains run by other operators elsewhere on its network.

Image caption Three Bridges commuter Amy Burgess said her train had been cancelled and she faced a two-and-a-half hour journey

Passengers at Three Bridges station in Crawley expressed growing frustrations with the service.

Law worker Amy Burgess said her commute to London Bridge had grown from 35 minutes to at least an hour-and-half each way in recent months.

"It's a nightmare, I've just found out my train has been cancelled so it's going to be another two-and-a-half hour journey.

"Work are getting annoyed [after] four months of delays."

'Driving me nuts'

Erica Jeffery, a contact manager from Crawley, said her typical journey now took two hours from door-to-door.

"It's made me consider quitting my job in London, as I'm completely sick of getting stuck either near my house or near my work. It's driving me nuts.

"Sometimes I've been stuck in London for three hours."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Thousands of football fans travel to Brighton's Amex Stadium, pictured to the left, via Falmer station

Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club has said reduced rail services could cost £300,000 in lost match day revenues.

Falmer station, which fans use for Brighton's Amex Stadium, has a restricted service during the strike with no trains running after 17:00 BST.

Eastbourne in East Sussex said it had put contingency plans in place to help visitors to the town's air show, which starts on Thursday.

"We have got 800 extra parking spaces because Airbourne is one of the busiest events in our programme," said borough council spokeswoman Annie Wills.

"We are updating our website regularly for people to try and make it easier for people to get to Eastbourne."

Image caption Annie Wills said Eastbourne council had laid on 800 extra parking spaces for its airshow, starting on Thursday

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