'Fed up' passengers urge Theresa May to meet union leaders over rail disruption

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A group of "fed up" train passengers have called on the Prime Minister to meet with union leaders in a bid to end their travel misery.

An open letter on behalf of people who use Southern and Thameslink services said the ongoing disruption causes the breakdown of family life, leads to stress, health issues, job losses and reduced productivity for British business.

The letter to Theresa May comes as members of drivers' union Aslef are set to stage three days of strikes next week which will halt all Southern Railway's services.

Prime Minister Theresa May during a visit to Diabetes UK
(Jack Taylor/PA)

Written on behalf of the Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users Association, the letter says: "The residents of Southern England are fed up with the continuing disruption to their daily lives caused by the problems at Southern and Thameslink Railway companies."

It adds: "We have listened to your rhetoric that your government will be for the ordinary people of this country.

"We are ordinary people and call on you to intervene directly in this dispute, to get it resolved quickly and swiftly for all our sakes."

The group has also called on the leaders of Aslef and RMT to negotiate with an open mind and to suspend all strikes and overtime bans.

"Entering the room and just saying no is inexcusable," the letter said.

Signed by the chairman of the association, Stephen Trigg, the letter ends: "In conclusion, we ask Madam Prime Minister, that you personally get around a negotiating table with the leaders of the RMT and Aslef and create an agreement perhaps along the lines of our suggestions that can get Southern England back to work and resolve the issues once and for all."

Train passengers on the Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users Association Facebook page are organising car pooling to overcome this week's strikes.

commuters making their way past a Thameslink train
(Andrew Matthews/PA)

Southern has been accused of cancelling trains and blaming industrial action even though drivers and other crew members were available.

The company will go to the Court of Appeal on Monday in a bid to stop strikes by drivers next week and in the new year which will halt all Southern services.

Union officials claimed that a number of trains from Eastbourne in Sussex were cancelled this morning even though drivers were available.

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Aslef official Graham Morris told the Press Association: "Southern is deliberately sabotaging the service to strengthen its argument in court on Monday by suggesting that Aslef is responsible for the cancellations.

"Drivers and other crew were sitting around in Eastbourne this morning available to work."

A Southern spokesman said: "This is absolute fabricated nonsense. It is the unjustified industrial action by the union which is causing disruption for passengers.

"We are trying to provide the best possible service under very challenging circumstances. If anyone is sabotaging services it's the union."