ACES and the Rail Minister
Sadly when we met the Minister for Rail, Paul Maynard MP, he was not prepared to intervene in the Southern Rail dispute because it is between the unions and the employer, not the government. He also said that it was policy for a Minister of HMG not to talk to unions whilst they were striking.
We suggested that during a long, unresolved strike is the most important time to speak to a union - to try and get the staff and employer to come together - particularly as the dispute is having such a serious affect on our members and the local economy.
Unfortunately Mr Maynard did not agree with us.
During our discussion it became clear that Southern is not a franchise but was appointed as an agent of the government. Surely this makes the DfT the employer?
Caroline Ansell MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon worked hard to get us in to see the Minister so let's hope he is working hard behind the scenes to effect a resolution now that the RMT has suspended strike action.
It is encouraging that Aslef and GTR have reached an agreement. Let's hope the drivers vote to support it and that the RMT follows suit.
This is the copy of the email we sent the Minister and the DfT advisers after the meeting reiterating our requests:
Dear Mr Maynard
Thank you for meeting with us yesterday with your team; we appreciate your valuable time and that of the DfT team who were present.
We are keen to keep in regular contact so that we can keep our members informed of your progress and we look forward to receiving the answers to the 12 questions we tabled, hopefully by the end of the week if that is feasible?
We would like to follow up on 3 key points:
- We would like to talk further to you regarding an ‘open for business’ communications programme for East Sussex to try and counteract negative perceptions caused by the rail dispute - this is both from a business and visitor economy perspective. Team East Sussex (SELEP), together with its partners would be well placed to oversee delivery of such a programme. We would welcome an early meeting on this topic to try and move a strategy forward in advance of Spring / Summer.
- We urge the government to be proactive in supporting regional investment, including, but not limited to road infrastructure improvements, LGF and HS1 to begin investment that would not leave East Sussex so exposed in the future.
- Finally, we urge you and Mr Grayling again, to work closely with the unions and GTR on our behalf to bring this dispute to an end before it does any more damage to the local economy and to our members. We appeal to you to take urgent action before it is too late.
Thank you again for your time and for the support of Caroline Ansell MP and your team.
We have now received a response to our questions tabled during our meeting on January 9th but we have been asked not to publish these while GTR and the unions are in sensitive negotiations.
We are still await their answers to the three questions above. We will keep you informed. In the meantime, watch out for the next ACESussex magazine which carries a full report.
On behalf of the Alliance of Chambers in East Sussex
With thanks to Eastbourne Buzz for permitting use www.eastbournebuzz.co.uk
Business leaders from Eastbourne are heading to London today (9 January) for a meeting with the Rail Minister.
The Chamber of Commerce will join Chambers from Bexhill and Sussex, along with the county’s Federation of Small Business and Eastbourne MP, Caroline Ansell to discuss the impact the troubles on the Southern Network is having on the economy across the south east with Paul Maynard.
With a dispute between Southern and unions now approaching a year, businesses want to know why it’s taken so long for the Government to open its doors to talks to try and find a solution that works for all parties, including passengers and companies hit financially by strike action.
Both the RMT and ASLEF unions believe the introduction of driver-only trains on the Southern network will compromise passenger safety, but Govia Thameslink Rail – the parent company of Southern – insist this isn’t the case. Last week, a report by the Office for Rail and Road found mostly in favour of the driver-only operation, but Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce is yet to be convinced that it is a safe way forward.
As a report from the Office of Rail and Road finds that overall, driver-only trains are safe, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce isn't convinced after receiving information that makes us question whether driver only trains are the right way forward.
It's not just passengers that are feeling the pinch from rail strikes hitting Eastbourne - businesses are also being hit hard.
Before Christmas, the Chamber of Commerce wrote to MPs, the Transport Secretary and the Transport Minister, requesting a meeting into the on going dispute on the Southern network.
It had been hoped the meeting would take place in Hailsham on 4th January. Eastbourne Buzz has been hearing from the Chamber as to how the situation is hitting business in the town:
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