RMT union defends five-day Southern Rail strike action, the longest in nearly 50 years

Julia Hartley-Brewer clashes with Mick Cash of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers over Southern Rail strikes

Travel misery: A commuter passes a sign at Peckham Rye station in London warning of strike action

Monday, August 8, 2016

Hundreds of thousands of commuters across the south of the country face travel chaos this week as Southern Rail embark on the longest industrial action on the railways in almost 50 years.

From today (Monday) until midnight on Friday, Southern Rail services will operate on 60% of its current timetable. That timetable has already been hugely reduced in recent weeks, with 341 services 'temporarily cancelled' as the company struggled to cope with demand.

Southern Rail's parent company, Govia Thameslink, has been locked in a bitter dispute with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) over passenger safety and the roles of drivers and guards.

With the strike due to end at 23:59 on Friday, the RMT action is set to be the longest taken on the railways since 1968.

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT, told a disbelieving Julia Hartley-Brewer that the union has no choice but to take industrial action. 

"They couldn't negotiate themselves out of a paper bag at this moment in time," he said.

"Come the 21st August, [Southern Rail] are going to implement their ill-conceived plans [to get rid of guards off trains]. We are in a situation that if we don't so anything, that is what's going to happen." 

Listen to the full interview above, as Julia Hartley-Brewer challenges the RMT union on their strike action