Sack transport secretary over Southern crisis - council leader

Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport

Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling should be sacked over his handling of the Southern rail crisis, one Sussex council leader has urged.

A 48-hour walkout by train drivers’ union ASLEF began yesterday (Tuesday December 13) in a dispute with rail operator Govia Thameslink Raiwlay over the introduction of driver-only operation on Southern services.

Warren Morgan, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council

Warren Morgan, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council

The strike, which follows 11 walkouts by the RMT union in 2016, has led to the complete shutdown of the Southern rail network, with no trains running.

Both GTR and ASLEF have started talks to end the dispute this morning as another strike is scheduled for Friday (December 15).

Warren Morgan, Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, said on Twitter: “Three things must happen to end the crisis on Southern rail: dispute should be resolved at Acas today, Chris Grayling should be sacked, and Government should stop subsidising failure, strip GTR of their franchise, and hand it to TfL or use “East Coast” model to run reliable service.”

Hove MP Peter Kyle added: “Government stood by when service standards plummeted on Southern, they should have been an active partner from the beginning.”

In a letter to MPs sent earlier this week Mr Grayling said that driver-only operation was ‘perfectly safe’ and described the biggest factor of disruption on non-strike days as being ‘unofficial work to rule’ by staff, as they had seen high levels of staff sickness and a doubling of broken down trains.

He explained how when he met with the general secretary of ASLEF he was promised ‘ten years of industrial action’.

Mr Grayling added: “I have therefore believed it better to avoid direct ministerial involvement in negotiations during the autumn, as my involvement would make the issues even more political than it is.”

He continued: “I am very committed to trying to solve this problem for you. I wish we were dealing with reasonable people on the union side. For all the shortcomings of the train operator - and there have been many - and the failures of the infrastructure - also many - it is difficult to resolve any of the other problems on this network while the union leadership seem hell bent on fermenting this dispute.

“We will continue to do everything we can to resolve things, and are looking carefully at all options to do so.”

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