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Southern Rail: Minister Paul Maynard criticised after months of strike action on line

By Paul Francis

The minister in charge of railways has insisted the government is taking the continuing strike action by Southern rail seriously.

Paul Maynard was visiting Kent today for the launch of a “tap and go” ticket scheme by Southeastern called “the Key.”

But he was left to fend off criticisms of the way the government had handled the strike, which has lasted months and shows no sign of being resolved.

A Southern Rail train. Stock picture.
A Southern Rail train. Stock picture.

And he was quizzed in the Commons by Kent MPs Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) and Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) over what the government was doing.

A further three days of strike action starts tomorrow, bringing yet more misery for passengers.

Drivers on London Underground also start action on parts of the network in a separate dispute.

Mr Maynard said the government was working hard to resolve the issue but sidestepped queries about whether the operator should have its licence withdrawn.

“At the moment we are working very hard to make sure we properly understand what intervention we need on that network to make it more resilient in the medium term.”

“At the moment we are working very hard to make sure we properly understand what intervention we need on that network to make it more resilient in the medium term..." - Paul Maynard

He said the decision to appoint Chris Gibb, a non-executive director of Network Rail, to carry out a review into performance and head a team of troubleshooters showed the government was taking the issue seriously.

“He is a very experienced person who has been put in there to conduct a very thorough review about how the operator and Network Rail are working together to the best effect for passengers.”

He added: “There are too many delays, too many breakdowns, too many cancellations and we need to make sure both the operator and infrastructure manager are working together in the best interests of passengers.”

“But over and above that we need to make sure the unions are putting passenger interests first and call off their strikes that will heap misery on top of more misery at Christmas time.”

Southern operates services from Ashford and Tonbridge but the bulk of its business is in Sussex.

The strike is related to opposition by the RMT union to Southern’s plans to cut conductors from services.

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