I have profound sympathies for all commuters during these strikes. Today has been chaos. It is the first time in ages that I was pleased to make the journey to Westminster in only an hour and a half, getting a lift to Morden and heading up the Northern Line. As I hope all my constituents would have seen from my newspaper that went out last week, I, along with with 50+ other MPs who represent constituencies with stations serviced by Southern, have been calling for these strikes to be called off and talks to resume. This is no time for MPs to be abandoning this cross-party effort for political gain. We need to work together on this to put an end to this commuter misery.
Southern and the unions need to remember the commuters they represent rather than point-scoring. I am deeply disappointed that the unions are refusing to come to talks even without any preconditions. This is all about who presses a button to close the doors. Driver only operated trains operate on over a third of the rail network already, all trains that go through Sutton are driver-only operated and Thameslink drivers are at work today, represented by the same union, and they are driving driver-only operated trains. This makes this strike look vindictive rather than about a credible safety concern.
This is my top priority at the moment. I am getting regular updates from the government, with another due this afternoon, who have also invited all parties back to the table, and I continue to call for these strikes to be call off.
I will say it again – all parties need to remember the commuters they serve. People are losing or quitting their jobs because of how appalling the train service is – this cannot be allowed to continue. The strike and wider industrial action needs to end now so we can go back to tackling the underlying issues that have dogged this network for years.