I have been working non-stop to see an end to the strikes that have been frustrating constituents, holding back our local economy and ruining commuters’ days for months now.

This is my statement from when the news of the ASLEF ballot came through. I just cannot understand why ASLEF is in dispute with Govia Thameslink over driver-only operated trains when it is a common occurrence on about 30% of this country’s rail network and is deemed safe by experts.  This is In addition to the RMT union’s action by guards. This is simply appalling news for passengers now faced with an almost total shutdown of Southern services.

This dispute is totally unnecessary and is, bizarrely, about working practices ASLEF has already agreed to in other parts of the country. Such inconsistency is baffling to me and, I’m sure, to passengers too. Nothing can be gained from this strike action and I share the anger and frustration of everyone who will have to face trying to get to work or home.

I absolutely understand the frustration and stress caused by cancelled and delayed services to and from our town. I have lost untold hours and routinely arrived past midnight and my children too have been caught up in the chaos and been stranded at the station.

I have constantly lobbied the rail minister (and his predecessor), as well as the Transport Secretary.  I have spoken directly to the Unions, I have had meetings with local guards in August and other employees on a regular basis – as well as dozens of meetings at my fortnightly surgeries with constituents who are being effected.  No doubt you will have seen me far too much on TV, heard me on the radio and seen dozens of my press articles on the subject over the last few months as well.

I have organised two ‘Meet the Manager’ sessions – an evening and an early morning one on the Station concourse to give residents a chance to have their say directly to Southern management – both were really well attended.

On each occasion where there has been industrial action, I have fought hard to ensure the effects are limited as much as possible – the strike in August that would have affected Airbourne locally is a good example, and as a result of my actions, this one was called off – I spoke directly to Mick Cash of the RMT on that occasion.

Throughout this, I have also fought on a number of other related issues – for example there was a suggestion to close the ticket office in the summer – as a result of my campaigning this has been put back to an unspecified date in the future and will be subject to lessons learned from a trial close in stations elsewhere – but not Eastbourne.

I also campaign to ensure that less abled passengers are not disadvantaged as a result of the future changes to guards actions – see this;

We are working through detailed plans to ensure that those with accessible needs are able to continue to use the network spontaneously and these plans will consider contingencies for the small number of services that may run without an on-board supervisor.  The on-board supervisor would certainly have authority to provide assistance, including ramp deployment.

I am just as keen to see this resolved as anyone else, and am working very hard to that end. It’s just not as straightforward as stripping away the franchise.

The RMT says the dispute is about Driver Operated Only (DOO), but DOO is perfectly safe – see this letter from the Director of Railway Safety at the Office of Rail and Road. It also says it’s about jobs, but I’m told by Govia that no jobs will be lost and no one will lose money.

In the end it’s the passengers who are stuck in the middle and this is utterly unacceptable – at least my discussions with the Dept of Transport on increasing the levels of compensation have begun to pay off – but I agree that’s no substitute for a good service.

I have submitted anonymised correspondence from rail users in Eastbourne & Willingdon to the Transport Select Committee. A new all-party parliamentary group, specifically on Southern and its performance, is to be formed and I contribute to its work.

Other more substantial plans being put in place speeding up the roll out of new trains on the line which replace the unreliable aging rolling stock which causes knock on delays across the Mainline. Moving forward plans are being put in place to manage the new timetable from 2018. There is new capacity on our East Coastway Brighton connection and some small time savings on the London run.

Notwithstanding the horrendous problems for local travellers during the current strikes, you may be interested in the latest financial dataset on the rail industry – Rail’s transformation in numbers – which provides an overview of the number of passenger journeys on the railway, the amount of freight carried, revenue and the breakdown of ticket types, average train operator profit margins, customer satisfaction, and analysis of many other key aspects of the industry.

Following long running campaign by myself and at least teo of my predecessors, we will see a few minutes shaved of times to London on some services, and there is a consultation that relates to this which ends on 8th December – see here. I will continue to press for the very best train services for the people of Eastbourne.