Commuters were hit by yet another round of rail strikes yesterday as Southern services were completely halted. Last night the train drivers union announced an agreement to hold formal talks with rail bosses today in an effort to end the dispute.
There were no trains running on the Tonbridge to Redhill line, as the Aslef Union began a 48-hour strike at 00:01am yesterday (Tuesday), entirely crippling the franchise’s operations. Another 24 hour strike is scheduled for Friday.
Seventeen hours into their strike, Aslef announced an agreement to hold formal talks with Southern bosses to end the long-running dispute. It is hoped the talks at conciliation service Acas will yield a breakthrough in the long running row over driver-only trains.
Vice-chair of pressure group Tonbridge Line Commuters John Reynolds described the route as a ‘vital line’ for many people, explaining: “It is the cheapest and quickest way for people in the town to get to Gatwick.
“On top of that there are around 200 school children that use that line every day, coming from Edenbridge, Penshurst and Leigh.”
Hillview School for Girls reported a noticeable impact, with a number of students unable to come in because of the industrial action, as well as parents who delayed going into work to deliver their children to school.
Mr Reynolds commented that he felt the strikes had taken ‘a vindictive turn’ adding: “Not content on ruining Bonfire Night, they are now intent on ruining Christmas. So many people use the trains this time of year: for shopping, seeing relatives, visiting attractions and of course there is New Year’s Eve.
“We really need to see both sides returning to talks because Southern commuters have had a really rough deal this year.”
A range of bus and train companies, including Southeastern, have offered to accept Southern tickets for an equivalent journey on their services.
The planned Southern strike dates are: Tuesday 13 December to 23:59 Wednesday 14 December (Aslef); Friday 16 December to 23:59: Friday 16 December (Aslef); Monday 19 December to 23:59 Tuesday 20 December (RMT); Saturday 31 December to 23:59 Monday 2 January (RMT); Monday 9 January to 23:59: Saturday 14 January (Aslef).