The Guardian view on Southern rail: the wrong kind of minister | Editorial

The Guardian view on Southern rail: the wrong kind of minister | Editorial
Either Chris Grayling fixes this mess, or he must be replaced with a transport secretary who can

Train companies are not in the business of telling their passengers not to travel, but that is what Southern rail is doing this week. The company’s trains have no drivers, since they are now on strike. Unless the talks announced late on Tuesday afternoon are successful, the franchise is set to be hit by more industrial action next week, and over the new year, and again for the first full working week of January. Some of those will be walkouts by conductors in the RMT union alone, but others will involve drivers who are members of the RMT or Aslef. What will that be like? If today’s scenes are anything to go by, absolute mayhem: 1,000 drivers on strike, 156 stations rendered temporarily useless and about 600,000 journeys stymied in what transport analysts estimate is the worst rail disruption in two decades.

More than 300,000 passengers will doubtless be hoping for a breakthrough at any talks. Achieving a lasting detente will be a feat indeed. The nub of this dispute is whether Southern trains need guards, but what makes it so hard to resolve is that relations between the unions, Southern’s management and – crucially – the government are now toxic. Witness this week’s claim from transport secretary Chris Grayling that Mick Whelan, Aslef’s head, had “promised 10 years of strikes” – and the response from the normally measured Mr Whelan that the minister was lying and that the breakdown in trust was now total.

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Source: Guardian Transport

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