A five-day Southern Railway strike is looming as negotiations break down with union


Almost time to despair (again), if you are a Southern Railway customer. Thousands of passengers are facing a week of travel nightmares as talks between the warring workforce and management have collapsed.

Southern Railway will now introduce an emergency timetable for five days from Monday, running just 60% of its services across London and the South East.

The talks, which ran over three days, were between the company and the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union over the role of conductors. Both sides blamed the other for the failure to come to a resolution, and the RMT also accused the Government of "sabotaging" the talks.

Commuters protested about Southern's service in July

Southern Railway's Passenger Service Director Angie Doll said the company was "deeply disappointed" and that the strike was "unnecessary, unacceptable and unjustified".

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It was clear right from the start of these talks that there was no serious intent from Govia Thameslink to engage in genuine negotiations and that their script was being written from behind the scenes by their Government paymasters.

"I have been involved in countless negotiations and have never witnessed a farce like this."

A woman steps onto a Southern Railway train (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The union said it was told by industry sources that Transport Department official Peter Wilkinson, who told a public meeting he wanted a "punch up" with rail unions, was responsible for "wrecking" the talks.

Southern, part of the huge Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, said an offer by the union to suspend industrial action if the company agreed to terms put forward by ScotRail to resolve a separate dispute was a "complete red herring".