Ongoing rail chaos confronted by MPs

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Sussex MPs have been taking action in response to ongoing rail chaos over the Christmas period.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, held crisis talks with Charles Horton, CEO of Govia Thameslink Railway and also met with the Prime Minister to discuss Southern Rail on Monday, December 19.

He said: “It is plain from many discussions with rail operators, unions, ministers and the Prime Minister that there is no justification for the disruption to travellers.

“The present disputes could be resolved by ACAS in half a day if unions felt pressured to stop their unreasonable actions.”

In regard to the Southern Rail trains that currently have guards, he said that Govia plans to roster the same number of staff or increase their numbers.

Meanwhile, Tim Loughton, Member of Parliament for East Worthing and Shoreham, put forward a ten minute rule bill in the House of Commons the following day that would establish a network-wide rail ombudsman and redesign the compensation system.

He proposed that penalty fines be paid into a central pot – independent of train operation companies – for every train arriving late beyond an agreed threshold, which would be used to compensate passengers.

It would also fund a new rail ombudsman, based on the Energy Ombudsman model, with ‘real teeth’ and ‘proper statutory powers’, which would manage compensation claims.

Mr Loughton said: “My bill would recalibrate the balance of power back to aggrieved passengers.

“My bill alone is not an immediate solution but does represent a practical way forward to change the dynamics within the rail industry.”

But Mr Loughton was slammed by Martin McCabe of Worthing West Labour, for supporting the suggestion that British soldiers be used as replacement bus drivers during the strikes. He said: “It’s frankly insulting that Mr Loughton should seek to involve our armed forces in a dispute that has been caused by his government colleagues’ ineptitude.

“Instead of trying to get our beleaguered soldiers to bail them out, the government needs to get a grip and end the Southern franchise immediately.”

Members of the Labour Party and Worthing and District Trades Union Council will set up stalls at Worthing Station on Tuesday, January 3, from 7.30am to 9am and 4.30pm to 7pm, to speak to commuters and demand that the transport secretary ‘do his job and get everyone around the table to sort this mess out’.

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