Christmas snow

Southern rail commuters are set to be hit with another round of travel chaos, as the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announce additional strike over the festive period.

As the long running dispute between the union and Southern’ s operating company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) continues, a three-day strike by conductors starting on 22 December until the last trains on Christmas Eve has been announced.

This will then be followed by another three-day strike starting on New Year’s Eve.

The dispute began over plans to reform the role of the conductor and potentially run trains without a second crew member. The union claims that a losing a second member of staff will be unsafe, whilst GTR claims the union are opposing to it to hang on to power.

A spokesman for Southern said: “Not content with causing months of misery, the RMT has now hit a new low and is determined to cancel Christmas for the travelling public.

“These latest strikes will not just hit families wanting to get home for Christmas but also the shops and businesses for whom Christmas is their busiest time. These strikes are spiteful, vindictive and pointless given the majority of conductors have now signed up to the new on-board role.”

Last month, Southern rail workers began a series of strikes that warned delays of up to 30 minutes.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary said: “Yet again the sheer pig-headedness of the company and the Government means that our members are being forced to take further industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service on Southern Rail.

“Govia Thameslink and the Government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute. RMT has called repeatedly for the Transport Secretary Chris Graying to get out of his bunker, get hold of the company and get round the negotiating table. He continues to ignore us.

“If Government ministers can meet with our colleagues from the Prison Officers Association over safety in prisons then there is no reason whatsoever why they can’t meet with RMT over safety on our railways.

“This week we have seen repeated chaos on Southern Rail services that has shown once again that they are simply incapable of running safe and reliable services. The only obstacle to their removal from their management contract is the Government who are calling the shots and pulling the strings behind the scenes while publicly claiming the dispute is between RMT and GTR.

He added: "It is total nonsense but is a tactic which is deliberately blocking any chance of progress. That blockage has to be cleared as matter of urgency.”