SOUTHERN rail owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) yesterday launched a legal bid to stop ASLEF’s strike action.
GTR issued proceedings at the High Court to seek an injunction to declare illegal ASLEF’s planned Southern drivers’ strikes for the run-up to Christmas (a 48-hour strike on 13-14 December and a 24-hour strike on 16 December) plus a week-long walkout in the New Year (9-14 January) The court application claims the union’s industrial action ‘breaches customers’ free movement rights under EU law’.
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘Once again, we see that GTR/Southern is a company desperate to seek to prevent the voice of their put-upon employees being heard. The company that has lost the confidence of the travelling public, taxpayers and staff – and which should have lost its franchise by now – seeks to do anything to prevent the right of free association.
‘The government will not condemn the tactics as the government created the situation and is using taxpayers’ money to fund them. It is time, frankly, for the minister to come clean and admit that the DfT is behind all the hurt, the pain, and the problems on Southern.
‘We will continue to campaign and, if necessary, fight for the safety of our railway and the safety of passengers. We feel sorry for all those impacted, unlike the DfT and the company. I would urge everyone to look at the tactics being maliciously employed and then decide to support those not doing this for financial gain but for the long-term good of everyone.’
Following the application to the High Court, this matter is likely to be considered at a hearing in the coming days. The GTR move came as it announced that rail fares will rise by 2.3% in January. Whelan commented: ‘It is scandalous that the government is allowing the privatised train companies to make even more money for providing an ever poorer service.
‘This new price hike – well above the rate of inflation – is indefensible and designed to punish passengers. Fares have now soared 25% in the last six years. The train companies see passengers as sheep to be fleeced but it is shameful that the government is going along with them. No wonder so many commuters, many of them Tory voters, are now saying they’ve had enough.
‘Just look at Southern – a company which MPs say lets down passengers every day of the year – yet wants to be rewarded even more handsomely for its failure to deliver on the pledges it made when it was awarded its franchise by the DfT.
‘We have the most expensive railway in Europe and the train companies, aided and abetted by this Conservative government, are about to make it even harder for people to travel at a time when so many families are only just about managing.’
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This latest fares hike is another kick in the teeth for British passengers and condemns them to continue to pay some of the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out and unreliable trains. Once again the rip-off private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank as they whack up fares and axe staff in an all-out dash to maximise their profits.’