Tens of thousands of Southern Rail commuters returned to work from their summer holidays today to be met with cancelled and delayed trains due to on-going strike action.
Up to 200 trains were cancelled with no service on the West London route between East Croydon and Milton Keynes Central via Clapham Junction and Watford Junction.
A signalling fault between Redhill and Reigate added to commuter problems increasing journey times by 45 minutes throughout the morning peak.
The RMT – which ordered the 24-hour strike, its 34th in the long running dispute over the role of the guard and train driver only operation (DOO) – declared support “solid” across the region.
Pickets were out across the south.
Commuters were facing more problems getting home again this evening and there is the threat of more walkouts to come. There are no fresh peace talks planned.
Strikes also took place on Merseyrail and Northern. The RMT is set to escalate the disputes next week calling on the Trades Union Congress (TUC) annual meeting in Brighton to support its national campaign against DOO.
Unions say DOO is unsafe – a claim robustly rejected by rail chiefs who say it is used safely across major parts on the UK.
Southern said it was running more than 90 per cent of its full timetable of 2220 trains a day.
Angie Doll, passenger services director of GTR, Southern’s parent company, said of staff changes: “Passenger numbers have doubled in the past two decades giving us the most congested network in the country so we simply have to modernise the way we do things to keep people moving.”
A number of services, mainly along the Southern coast, were not operating and some peak hour trains between Ashford and Hasting International were cancelled.
There were no Southern services to and from Guildford.
Mick Cash, the RMT leader, said: “The resilience and determination of our members in the three separate disputes on Northern Southern and Merseyrail is right at the forefront again today.”
*Long distance commuters into mainline Waterloo faced yet more disruption today due to signalling problems at Eastleigh. This delayed services from Southampton via Basingstoke into London.
Just before 8 am – at the height on the peak – a train broke down between Staines and Feltham blocking some of the lines to Waterloo.
Operator South Western warned passengers of delays and short notice changes to services.