Southern 'axing trains despite crew availability' amid industrial dispute

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

Services are being disrupted because of a ban on overtime by the drivers' union Aslef.

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.

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."

Aslef said cancellations included the 06.45 to Ore, the 06.55 to London Victoria, and 07.21 to Ore.

"There is a crew room full of frustrated drivers and guards who are puzzled as to why the company would create this disruption and blame it on us," a source said.

Southern's website listed a number of cancellations today, including:

:: No direct trains between London Victoria and Littlehampton

:: No direct trains between London Victoria and Eastbourne

:: A replacement bus service between Wivelsfield, Plumpton and Lewes

:: No Southern service between Clapham Junction and Milton Keynes Central

:: Brighton to Ore services will not run between Hastings and Ore

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "Once again Southern Rail are lying through their teeth over the cause of today's disruption to services and once again they are trying to lay the blame on their frontline staff for their own gross managerial incompetence.

"This company are an absolute disgrace and it's about time the Government pulled the plug on the whole GTR operation and brought the public sector option in to clear up this mess."