Strikes mean Southern Rail customers can expect more travel woes

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The Southern Railway dispute is continuing with another 48-hour strike, leading to the cancellation of trains and more disruption to services.

The latest blow for commuters, with a stoppage which got under way at midnight, comes as the company announced fresh strikes over Christmas and the new year which are likely to cause travel misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers. Definitely not a welcome announcement for the holiday season.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union accused the company and the Government of "sheer pig-headedness" as it announced that its members will strike from midnight on December 22 until midnight on Christmas Eve, and again from midnight on New Year's Eve until midnight on January 2, when new fare rises come into effect.

Southern Rail
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said Southern's owners, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), and the Government had made it clear they have no interest in resolving the long-running row over the role of conductors.

Services have been disrupted for months, partly due to the strikes, staff shortages and other problems. A damaged track caused chaos on Tuesday evening, leading commuters to warn of dangerously overcrowded trains and platforms.

Cash repeated his call to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to "get out of his bunker" and try to help resolve the row.

Southern Rail
(Gareth Fuller/PA)

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."

Southern said it is putting on extra trains during the next strikes, with almost all its 156 stations having either a train or bus service. But there will be a restricted service, with many routes having fewer trains, and on some routes there will be no trains at all.

Southern Rail
(Gareth Fuller/PA)

There will be no rail service on Saturday to Lewes, where tens of thousands of people attend the town's popular annual bonfire, with Southern citing public safety for its decision.

A fresh row broke out after the union revealed it had received a letter from Southern saying that backdated holiday pay is being withheld from conductors involved in the industrial action until the dispute is over.