Comment on Strike by Amber Rudd MP

Amber Rudd MP for Hastings & Rye made the following comment on the current industrial action in her weekly newsletter 9/8/16.

I know how important our transport services are to our families, businesses and communities in Hastings and Rye.  Better rail services have been central to what I am determined to deliver in our area.  So it has been devastating for us all that there have been no Southern trains between Eastbourne and Ashford this week. This vital artery has been shut down by the RMT union protesting the introduction of new trains and their operation.

These new trains will only need the driver to open and close their doors instead of a conductor. The conductor’s role will then evolve into a more customer facing job to focus on addressing passengers’ issues throughout the train. No conductor will lose their job or face a pay cut, and fare-paying travellers will be better looked after. In addition, ORR, the safety regulator, has stated that this Driver Only Operation (DOO) of trains is safe – indeed, it is already in place on many services across the Southern, Southeastern and national rail networks.

I was deeply concerned to see that Southern planned to leave our area without either rail or bus services during this week’s strike. Last Friday, I had a call with the company’s CEO, Charles Horton, during which I told him how unacceptable this decision was. Buses have now been found to run in both directions between Hastings and Ashford during morning and evening peak times. I know this is not enough. Southern will continue to look to source additional buses and I have been told that our line is a priority to return to train service if a sufficient number of conductors turn up to work.

Ultimately, I hope this dispute is resolved as quickly as possible. Industrial action is causing undue stress and pain for local people and businesses. The economies of our towns and villages need a reliable rail service, especially now, at the height of the tourism season with our traditional calendar of festivals and more besides.

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