SOUTHERN train drivers in the ASLEF union are bringing the network to grinding halt over the Xmas period with nine days of strike action.
The drivers voted a massive 87.3% ‘YES’ for a strike against the removal of the guard from the train. Driver Only Operation (DOO) trains, the union rightly insists, are ‘inherently unsafe’.
ASLEF’s executive committee, met yesterday, and has called strikes on Southern trains on these days:
• Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December.
• Friday 16 December.
• Monday 9 to Saturday 14 January 2017.
In addition, drivers will not work any non-contractual work from Tuesday 6 December. Southern guards, who are in the RMT union, are striking on the same issue from the 6-8 December, 22-24 December and from 31 December 2016 to the 2 January 2017.
Mick Whelan, ASLEF general secretary, said of the Southern drivers strike: ‘Southern rail as I see it has the Department for Transport (DfT) fingerprints all over this dispute. It’s as if the DfT is the ventriloquist and Southern the ventroliquist’s dummy. It doesn’t want to talk, it wants to bully; it doesn’t want to discuss, it wants to impose, because it doesn’t care about passenger safety, it only cares about the profits for its shareholders.’
Whelen, was back in front of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee yesterday afternoon, to talk about safety on Britain’s railways. Giving evidence about the industrial dispute with Southern, and the failure of franchising, he told MPs: ‘It’s been our policy for more than 15 years to seek to eradicate driver only operation.
‘DOO was designed for three-car 317s on the Bed-Pan (Bedford to St Pancras) line in the early 1980s when it was all about managed decline at the fag end of British Rail. ‘An increase in the number of passengers we are carrying every day means you have 1,100 passengers on a 12 car train and just two seconds to check 24 sets of doors and that’s simply not adequate to deal safely and properly with the travelling public. DOO is not fit for purpose. There are blind spots all over the place.’