Lib Dem councillor Vic Ient has proposed that Lewes District Council invite the Department of Transport and Govia/Southern/GTR to come down to Lewes to be grilled over the current failing rail service.

Govia/Southern will be asked to present their plans for a resolution of the dispute currently running with the RMT as well as providing information on what steps they will take to significantly reduce train cancellations and late trains - whether or not there is a dispute with the union.

An additional call was made by fellow Lib Dem Councillor Sarah Osborne (Leader of the Lib Dem group on the Lewes District Council) to begin a longer term review of the state of transport in the Lewes District. Councillor Sarah Osborne said “Many of the residents of Lewes District face enormous difficulties accessing services like education and hospitals because of our relatively poor public transport and our clogged road network. People face expensive and limited ways of getting to their place of work and local businesses tell me it is becoming harder to attract employees because of this. I want LDC to fully consider the impact this has on our residents and businesses, and then work with their partners to action an improved transport network”.

Vic Ient commented about the desperate state of rail services in Sussex saying “commuters are again struggling to get to work, on this ninth day of dispute between Govia, the Government & RMT. These three organisations need to end this dispute. Despite Southern promising the restoration of some services to Seaford towards the end of this month, it is their intention not to restore full services till the end of October. And there is no mention of an end to the dispute with the RMT or exactly how they will restore the services which currently they seem unable to do”.

“Whether or not all or part of the services are restored this autumn the residents of our area need to be assured that they can look forward to going about their business including commuting, family and social activities as well as getting to school and college unhindered by disputes and train cancellations.

“We need to meet the government and Govia face-to-face. They have ignored our support for the Mayor of London’s suggestion back in July for Transport for London to take over the Southern operations”.

Background information:

The Southern agreement is the only one across the UK’s rail network which sees revenues go into the Department for Transport (DfT) before a fee is passed on to the rail operator. This means that all of the risk is borne by the government and not the rail operator. Govia’s parent companies are not suffering financially over the dispute. It is the rail passenger who is suffering and no doubt any additional costs of the dispute will have to be paid for by us the taxpayer.

This dispute is rooted in Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains however, it remains unclear as to what the DfT has explicitly included in its service agreement with Govia/GTR on this subject. Publicly available documents on the subject do not mention DOO. The precise wording of the service agreement is not available to the public.  

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