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ALAN HARDY 2015 - 2016

(Footplate Seniority 08.03.1999)


(Footplate Seniority ? )


Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.” D.H. Lawrence 



 This page will tries to explain the events of the during the new Thameslink/Southern franchised 




Brighton Branch Secretary 2015-16


 Presentations made at the Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Reunion

5th May 2015


 All presentations made by National Organiser & Brighton Branch member Simon Weller (Left)



JULY 2015

South East: Slur on the E.C.

I must reply to the gross distortion of the facts as represented by Laurie Holden (Journal, may). I was the Executive Committee member for District 1 during the entire privatisation period. AAD laid down principles for the EC to enforce by recommending, or not, the various restructuring deals presented to them by company councils.

It is a slur on the eight members of the EC at that time to suggest we’d done an underhand deal with Connex South Eastern when, at the same time, we were conducting an industrial dispute with their sister company Connex South Central. It is no good quoting the votes in favour if you do not state the votes against. And if you cannot be bothered to vote you cannot complain about the result. It would appear that Laurie is endorsing the Tories’ policy on trade union ballots, i.e. there must be a 51% majority.

He refers to the R.M.T. branch at Slade Green but does not tell us if it still exists. I hesitate to remind him that because of the shameful number of scabs during the 1982 dispute on South Eastern a scab’s union was formed only to vanish soon after.

Bill Mackenzie, former EC president and member for District 1 



Dave Devenport (Branch Chairman), Paul Horan, Paul Overington & Alan Hardy (Branch Secretary)

At the T.U.C. to lobby against Government’s Trade Union Bill on Monday 2nd November, 2015,

at Westminster Central Hall, London


Paul Edwards Collection

The front of the Class 700 Siemen’s Thameslink units, 2015





Roy Luxford was thanked for his long service and all his hard work and presented with a decanter and bottle of Scotch at the Brighton A.G.M. (2015)

Steve Allison, Assistant Secretary 


Steve Allison Collection

Alan Hardy (Branch Secretary), Roy ’Soapy’ Luxford & Dave Devonport (Branch Chairman) 







It is with great sadness that I report the departure of Brighton A.S.L.E.F. member Bro. Phil Plaine.  He passed away on the 18th December 2015 at age of 88.  

Phil’s footplate career started on the 11th October 1943.  He followed in the footsteps of other family members. Phil spent his entire career at Brighton. He progressed through the various footplate grades from engine cleaner, fireman, engineman and in 1962 transferring to the motorman’s depot at Brighton.

Phil became a dominant figure within the Brighton No. 2 Branch.  He held various positions, these included Branch Secretary, Branch Chairman, L.D.C. Secretary, H&S Rep, Trades Council Delegate, A.A.D. Delegate, District Council Representative (of which he served as Chairman.)

Phil was a strong defender of all footplate staff and their conditions and a formidable advocate and spokesman for his depot and the A.S.L.E.F. membership. His fellow members claimed that he ‘could walk on water.’

Phil will also be remembered for the very active part he played during the ‘Flexible Rostering’ dispute of 1982 and the support that he mustered for the Miners during their long and bitter strike. He was a truly dedicated trade unionist through and through.

In 1989 Phil decided to take early retirement. This ended a family connection to the railway industry within the Brighton area that dated back to the 1860s.

Paul Edwards

Brighton Branch



APRIL 2016

Ron “RAB” Rabbetts


It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of retired Brighton Driver Ron Rabbetts, aged 86.

Ron entered the footplate line of promotion on  August 22nd 1944 as an engine cleaner on the old Southern Railway, at Eastleigh  Loco Shed. During the mid 1950s many Loco Sheds in the  South West of England, saw a high loss of work due to the closure of many local lines which meant many Eastleigh Enginemen looking to migrate eastwards to find Footplate positions/promotion within the old Southern Region of British Railways. Ron arrived at Brighton Loco Depot towards the end of the 1950s, and remained at the Loco/Mixed Traction Depot. Ron retired in 1994.  

Brighton Branch would like it recorded that during the 1960s,

Ron became an active member of the Brighton No.1 Branch and later being elected as Chairman, a position that he held for most of the 1960s. It was during his Chairmanship, that the No.1 Branch witnessed a very sad event in its history, which involved the loss of two Brighton members at the tragic train crash at Itchingfield Junction in Sussex, which occurred on the 5th March 1964. It was the aftermath of this accident that saw Ron, along with other Branch Officers actively involved in trying to clear the names of their lost comrades, Bros. Driver Mick Guppy and Secondman John Myles. This saw the No.1 Branch taking on the hierarchy of our Society, in its fight to get some legal representation for their late members and to enable some kind of compensation for the deceased family's. This was to come to ahead during the 1967 A.A.D., whereby the No.1. Branch lost its appeal by a mere eight votes. This did not stop them trying to seek financial compensation, and they set up a nationwide appeal, which ran for about 18 months and they raised approximately £1,000 for the Guppy family, a lot of money in those days and was a great financial aid those affected.

The legacy of this event was recognized by the Brighton Branch in October 2014, when the Branch unveiled a plaque at Horsham station to remember their lost comrades and to pay tribute to everyone that played part in this sad tragic event. Unfortunately Ron was unable to attend this momentous event owing to him being house bound for a number of years due to health problems.

Ron was a life long and loyal member of our Society, and he will be sadly missed by his fellow colleagues us who worked with him….……Rest In Peace RAB 

Dave Devonport

Brighton Branch Chairman



APRIL 2016



I am sad to report the death on Christmas Eve of my oldest and dearest friend, John Gillam, known as Mick. He was 71. He started cleaning, then firing, at Brighton, got his driving job at Coulsdon, and then moved to Littlehampton. His wife Sue became very ill and he took a traction inspector’s job so he could look after her, and retired early when she needed full-time care. But, like many of us, he never left the railway. He was at every reunion and get together because he loved the friendship and the banter between locomen. We shared a pushchair as two-year-olds, we started school, left school, and started work together. He had a sharp wit and a great sense of humour. We played golf together and often said, whilst walking the course, that we wouldn’t change anything in our lives. But I would love the chance to play another game with him. John leaves two sons, John and Glenn, and his partner Pam.

Spike Jones, Brighton RMS 



APRIL 2016



It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of retired Brighton Driver Brian Young, aged 84.

Brian started his railway career at the young age of 14 on the 29th April, 1946,
On the  21st July, 1947, he become an engine cleaner at Bournemouth Loco Shed, where he progressed through the various footplate grades.

During the late 1950s Bournemouth Loco saw the loss of work due to the closure of many local lines which meant that many Enginemen of Brian’s seniority had to look to relocating to other loco depots within the old Southern Region of British Railways, to enable them to remain employed within the footplate grade. This brought Brian eastwards to Brighton Loco Depot. 

With the lost of steam at Brighton in 1964 this saw Brian learning the various forms of new diesel traction that replaced them.Brian worked over the various routes operated from  Brighton loco / Mixed Traction Depot. During the 1970s Brian served on the L.D.C. of Brighton Mixed Traction, No 1 Branch 

Shortly after the amalgamation of the Brighton Mixed Traction and the Electric Depots  Brian decided to opt out of the diesel work and spent the last few years working on the electric multiple units.
Brian always seemed to know everything that was going on at Brighton Depot hence his fond knick name "The Hangleton Gazette" after the suburb of Brighton where he lived.

Brian was a life long and a loyal member of our Society at Brighton and will be deeply missed by those of us who worked with him.  

Dave Devonport

Brighton Branch Chairman




Simon Weller presenting David Hunt with his 25 year badge 

at the Brighton Branch meeting on 21st April 2016 




Simon Weller presenting Anthony Williams with his 15 year badge 

at the Brighton Branch meeting on 21st April 2016 



 Paul Edwards Collection

Floyd Landridge, Simon Weller (N.O), Trevor Parsons, Paul Knapp & Marz Colombini (E.C. Member)   


 Paul Edwards Collection

Trevor Parsons receiving his 30 year membership badge 


 Paul Edwards Collection

Floyd Langridge receiving his 25 year membership badge 


Paul Edwards Collection

Paul Knapp receiving his 25 year membership badge 







 Left - Right, Spike Jones, Spencer Nightingale, Paul Horan, Paul Overington, Norman Moye, Theo Cohen,

 Kirsten O’Kane, Chris Horlock, Marz Colombini (E.C. member), Paul Donnelly (Eastbourne), Martin Watts, 

Tony Brace, Bob Kettle, Trevor Parsons, Geoff Hawkins?, John Osborne, Dave Lace, Matt Cole, Steve Allison, 

Steve Chatfield,  Mark Johnson, & Roy Luxford (Three Bridges)





Brighton branch is sad to announce the loss of retired member Bro Gus Wright, who died on 27 July at 90. Gus started his footplate career as an engine cleaner at Dorchester loco shed, on the old Southern Railway, in 1944. He progressed through the various footplate grades and, in the late 1950s, was one of a number of locomen who transferred to Brighton because of the closure of lines around Dorchester. In 1962 he moved to Brighton Motormen’s depot where he remained until retirement in 1991. Gus was a loyal member of our society and will be sadly missed by his colleagues.

Paul Edwards




Southern, D.O.O. and the D.F.T. 

it’s all about money and profit 


CONGRESS reaffirmed its commitment to public ownership of the rail

industry in a wide-ranging transport debate on Wednesday morning. Simon Weller led the way – followed by the R.M.T. and the T.S.S.A. – in a three-pronged attack on the government, the Department for Transport, and the privatised train operating companies, talking about the failures of Southern Railways, the problems with freight, and how the D.F.T. has come up short.

Speaking from the podium, this is how he introduced himself: ‘Simon Weller, assistant general secretary of A.S.L.E.F., and a train driver for 20 years, 15 of them at Brighton, my home depot and my home town, and I stand in solidarity with my workmates at Brighton and at Southern. Let’s be absolutely clear, this is not a spat over pay, or t&cs, this is about trying to destroy decent jobs. After the McNulty report it was clear they wanted driver only operation, to get rid of the traditional guard’s role, with safety responsibilities. This is all about money and profit and the on board supervisor is not guaranteed to be on the train.

‘My daughter is 25 and her generation is scrabbling to find work on zero hours contracts. On Southern we still have proper, decent jobs yet this government is trying to destroy them. The D.F.T. is funding this, and the D.F.T. is taking us on. Time, comrades, we put our hands in our pockets and assist our brothers and sisters on Southern.’ Simon also laid into the Conservative government for its failure to help ease – and, over coal, to directly cause – the problems in the freight sector.

‘We are witnessing the slow death of freight on rail, with operators cherry picking the work – fight amongst yourselves to get the most profitable work. The decline of coal and steel traffic is so severe that the very future of the industry is at risk. Freight is the only part of the railway which is fully privatised, and receives no government support, and once capacity declines it cannot quickly be reversed.

‘A sharp decline in rail freight capacity would be disastrous for the future of the British economy across the supply chain. Rail is vital to a balanced freight sector and essential to the maintenance, health and safety of the entire rail network.

‘We want public ownership of the rail freight industry, to better facilitate sustainable and long-term growth in the sector, and to secure future rail freight capacity, just as we want public ownership of the rest of the railway industry. Because firms, as well as passengers, and workers, are suffering from the short-termism of Britain’s privatised railway.’ 




(Brighton Branch Member)

I knew Paul for 20 years, and got to know him a lot better after we both ended up working for Cross Country; we had some great laughs together, and he was there for me when I needed a friend. After my move to Bristol we kept in touch and would regularly hook up for drinks in Brighton. Paul and his wife Maria were due to visit in June but a week before I got a phone call saying he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. I arranged to meet Paul in the Basket Makers a couple of weeks later, where we sat in the sunshine talking about the troubled times that lay ahead, and all sorts of other shite; we had a great few hours, exchanged gifts and said our goodbyes. Little did I know it would be for the last time. The next seven weeks passed with texts and phone calls, then all of a sudden it ended with a phone call while I was in Plymouth. Paul was a very private person; he didn’t want a funeral but wanted his body used for medical science. The speed his death happened stopped him from having his wish so he had the next best thing, as Maria, said ‘Bowie-esque’. All the best Paul, you will never be forgotten, top geezer. 

Andy Gregg


Saturday 5th November 2016

Brighton Branch members attending a rally in Brighton in support of the Southern Railway’s Guards dispute.



Ballot for action on Southern

The intransigence of the company – backed, many feel, by the D.F.T. –has led us to this place

A.S.L.E.F. is balloting our drivers on southern for industrial action after 
last-ditch talks at head office on Monday 17 october failed to resolve the problems at the heart of this dispute.

‘We have genuinely sought to reach a compromise with southern,’ said General Secretary Mick Whelan. ‘We have always been prepared to talk to the company, and we have always been of the view that it is, or should be, possible to do a deal – as we did with scotrail – but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate. They want to impose, not to discuss. They have dug in their heels and forced us to ballot our members.’ our trade dispute with the company is that there should be no introduction and/or extension of new driver-only operated routes on southern without the agreement of A.S.L.E.F.

Labour has accused southern of disregarding concerns over safety. shadow Transport secretary Andy McDonald said the long-running dispute about the role of guards – which involves the R.M.T. as well as A.S.L.E.F. – should be settled through negotiation, not by legal action. 

‘Nobody wants to see these strikes go ahead, least of all the staff,’ said Andy. ‘But the way to avoid industrial action is for all parties to get back round the table and reach a negotiated settlement, not by launching legal challenges. southern is disregarding concerns over safety on our increasingly overcrowded network and demonstrating an unwillingness to come to a workable agreement.’ 

Conflict of interest 

The boss of Southern is also a director of the supposedly independent organisation which oversees rail safety. A leaked memorandum from the Rail Safety and Standards Board, published in the Morning Star, reveals that the R.S.S.B. backs Southern’s continuing attempts to remove guards from trains despite the role they have played in helping passengers after accidents.

The documents show that Southern operator Govia Thameslink chief executive Charles Horton is also a non-executive director of the R.S.S.B., which is funded by the rail companies – and took an active part in discussions about removing guards from trains despite the fears of passengers.

The memo is a research brief giving details of the R.S.S.B.’s views on ‘increased

profitability for train companies’ if guards are removed and driver only operation is introduced. The briefing, which lists Horton as a participant in the discussions, says: ‘Adopting a strategy of guards’ redundancies delivers the greatest economic benefit.’

The unions believe the company wants to put private profit before passenger safety. 

M.P.s tell Southern to ‘get a grip’

The House of commons Transport select committee has urged ministers to ‘get a grip’ on monitoring rail franchise agreements – citing especially the suffering of southern passengers. M.P.s said evidence from passengers was dominated by the problems at G.T.R. and considered whether the company is now in default of its contractual obligations due to the number of train cancellations. ‘in normal circumstances, this would be grounds for termination of the contract.’

The DfT’s claim that no other operator could do a better job in the circumstances was no longer credible, said the committee. on parts of the national rail network, passengers struggle daily to get the service they deserve, citing overcrowding, delays, complex ticketing and a lack of access for disabled passengers.

‘Passengers now contribute more than 70% of the industry’s real income,’ said committee chair Louise Ellman. ‘But, in too many places, passengers are badly serviced by the train operating companies.’

The report recommends an automatic compensation scheme be set up to refund southern passengers directly without the need to make a claim. The D.F.T. said: ‘simply changing the management or taking the franchise from gTr would not address the issues and would only create uncertainty and cause further disruption.’ 

Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Tuesday 13th December 2016




Platform danger on Southern Failways 

The Association of British commuters has called on the Department for Transport to step in and prevent a tragedy on southern rail. ‘We have been inundated with reports of health and safety risks related to overcrowding on the southern rail network,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Problems we witnessed for many months, and reached their peak during the strike action. our lawyers have written to the D.F.T. seeking clarity on whether they conducted any risk analysis in advance of the R.M.T. strikes, and at what point the D.F.T. will consider these risks sufficiently serious to warrant termination of the franchise.

‘We want to know what instructions, if any, the D.F.T. has given to G.T.R. to minimise the effect on rail users, and whether G.T.R.’s implementation of these instructions is being properly monitored. Witness reports include violence at Brighton station, dangerous overcrowding, mass panic, mass rushes along overcrowded platforms to board trains after last minute announcements, and a child abandoned on a platform due to overcrowding.

‘The D.F.T. has failed to enforce the G.T.R. franchise agreement and is evading responsibility to provide proper transparency. We have no confidence in G.T.R.’s management of the network, or the D.F.T.’s oversight; extra overcrowding during the strikes represents an unacceptable H&S risk to the public; it is not a matter of if but when we will see a tragedy on the network.’ 




D.O.O. not fit for purpose 

Mick Whelan has told M.P.s why A.S.L.E.F. is opposed to the introduction and/or extension of driver only operated routes, why the union is balloting members on southern for industrial action, and why D.O.O. is inherently unsafe.

‘it’s been our policy for over 15 years to seek to eradicate D.O.O,’ said Mick. ‘D.O.O. was designed for three-car 317s on the Bed-Pan line in the late ’80s early ’90s. But increased footfall in our industry means that, unfortunately, when you have 1,100 passengers on 12 cars and you get two seconds to check 24 sets of doors, well, we don’t feel that’s adequate time to deal properly with the safety of the public.’

Mick was giving evidence about the industrial dispute with G.T.R. on southern, and the failure of franchising, to the House of Commons Transport select committee in the Grimond room at Portcullis House on 24 October.

‘We were aware [of plans for D.O.O on Southern] and did consult with the D.F.T. but they go through a token exercise and ignore the input. We did warn of the possible outcome of changing terms and conditions and methods of working through the invitation to tender. But the company is saying the government has told them to do this; so the people trying to resolve this situation don’t have the power to resolve it.

‘The difference between us, and the D.F.T. and some of the companies we have to deal with, is that we’re honourable. Where we have agreements we seek to change them because we think they’re inherently unsafe. And the industry is now catching up. D.O.O. is not fit for purpose. There are blind spots all over the place.’ 


Today I was proud to stand on the first A.S.L.E.F. picket line to be seen at Brighton for nearly 17 years.
Over the course of 3 shifts covering 12 hours, nearly 30% of our establishment showed their support for this lawful industrial action.

Given that a third of our drivers were rest day and had probably made prior arrangements, and taking into account the distances some people would have to travel, this was in my opinion a good turnout.

We will doubtless have many colleagues for whom industrial action is a new, and possibly daunting event, but hopefully these photos will serve to allay their fears concerning striking and encourage them to join their friends on the line.

The support of our Guard colleagues with us on the line was a great encouragement.

Tony Brace

Brighton L.D.C.


Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Wednesday 14th December 2016




Standstill on Southern when drivers walk out 

A.S.L.E.F. members on Southern Railways went on strike on Tuesday 13,Wednesday 14 and Friday 16 December in a dispute over the company’s decision to try and force through driver only operation on the franchise. Drivers, who voted overwhelmingly for action – 87.3% to strike, and 95.6% for industrial action short of a strike, on a turnout of 77%, well above the government’s artificially high new threshold – will walk out again from Monday 9 to Saturday 14 January. Train drivers have not been doing overtime since Tuesday 6 December.

The strikes closed the Southern network – not one train moved – and, as the T.O.C. refuses to employ enough drivers to fulfil its legal franchise commitments, the overtime ban has hit the company hard, too, forcing it to cancel dozens of services every day.

‘A strike is always the last resort but, faced with an intransigent management, our only option,’ said general secretary Mick Whelan. ‘We tried to reach a sensible, workable compromise with Southern in the interests of passengers, the company, and staff. We always believed it should be possible to do a deal – as we did with ScotRail – but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to properly negotiate.’

The company – with a desperately thin argument about E.U. laws on freedom of movement and the right of people to get to Gatwick Airport, described by the judge, Sir Michael Burton, as ‘novel’, a legal euphemism for ‘risible’ – took the case to the High Court, where it lost, and then to the Appeal Court, where Lord Justice Elias, sitting with Lord Justice Lewison and Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, backed our right to take lawful industrial action.

A.S.L.E.F. officers were out in force explaining our action. The G.S. was interviewed by John Humphrys in the prestigious 8.10 a.m. slot on Today on Radio 4; by Jo Coburn on Daily Politics on B.B.C. 2; by ITV News, Sky News and Channel 5 News. A.G.S. Simon Weller appeared live with Steph McGovern just after 8 a.m. on B.B.C. Breakfast; with Michael Crick on Channel 4 News; and with Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. D.O. No.1 Graham Morris was on B.B.C. South-East and Radio 5 Live and E.C. No.1 Marz Colombini did B.B.C. London and a phone-in on 5 Live, too.

Mick said: ‘Our critics, in the government, and in the media, do not understand that unions, especially this one, are membership-driven and that we articulate the voice and the concerns of all the train drivers in the U.K. Bearing in mind that up to 80% of U.K. rail is now wholly or partially run by operators in other countries the court case, calling into question the right of British workers to strike, was perverse. Fortunately, the court saw sense.’ 

Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Friday 16th December 2016




Another great weekend forum at Scalby with the R.M.S. Unfortunately the A.G.S. could not attend due to the serious situation in the freight sector but, in his usual informative and entertaining style, our president Tosh McDonald stepped into the breach. Well done, Tosh. Other speakers included the G.S. of the N.U.M., who was only 17 when the miners’ strike started in 1984. His experience made him determined to fight for miners’ rights which is what he does to this day. We also heard from Rodney Bickerstaffe who was very interesting. Lots of subjects were discussed. Strangely, the more we debated the more the ale flowed. Makes you proud to be a member of A.S.L.E.F. 

Spike Jones


Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Friday 16th December 2016




Passengers blame Southern as train drivers strike again 

A.S.L.E.F. drivers on Southern Railways went on strike on Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th and Friday 13th January in the continuing dispute over the company’s controversial decision – which rail industry experts say has backfired badly – to try and force through driver only operation across the region. Members, who voted overwhelmingly for action – 87.3% to strike, and 95.6% for industrial action short of a strike, on a turnout of 77% – have also not been working overtime since Tuesday 6th December.

The strikes closed the Southern network – the company was forced to plead with passengers not to travel – and an attempt to bus some commuters to stations on adjacent franchises, Southeastern and South West Trains, was also a flop, with rows of empty coaches parked up at stations.

Passengers explained on social media: ‘Why do I want to add another three- quarters of an hour to my journey each way? I want Southern to run the service it promised to provide. I want a guard on every train. It’s time the company sat down with the unions and did a deal.’

General Secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘We greatly regret the industrial action we have been forced to take. We don’t want to inconvenience passengers, nor do our members want to lose money, but we have been bullied by an intransigent management which has not been prepared to negotiate with us.’

District Organiser No. 1 Graham Morris said: ‘There is mass support among drivers for the strike, and morale is holding up well. The vast majority of passengers are still on side, too, because they want a second safety- critical role on the train they are taking.’ 

Wilkinson and DfT in conflict of interest row

PETER WILKINSON, the controversial civil servant who is paid £265,000 a year – considerably more than the Prime Minister – as director of rail passenger services at the Department for Transport, has been exposed by an investigation in The Guardian for an apparent conflict of interest.

Under the damning headline Civil Servant Gave Southern Rail To Client Of His Firm, Lucas Amin and Rob Evans revealed how Wilkinson, who ‘awarded struggling Southern Rail its franchise, made the decision to award the contract while owning a large share in a consultancy firm that had been advising its parent company.’

Wilkinson played a key role in handing the Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern franchises on a plate to GTR in 2014. But he was, at the time, a director and the main shareholder of First Class Partnerships, a consultancy which had Govia as a longstanding client. Wilkinson was also involved in awarding a 15 year franchise – the Essex Thameside service – to C-2-C which, The Guardian revealed, had also paid handsomely for the services of First Class Partnerships.

According to The Guardian, an internal inquiry by D.f.T. officials concluded that Wilkinson had a ‘clear conflict of interest’. Wilkinson refused to comment. 



It’s very early, it’s very cold, it’s very windy and there’s not an oil drum fire in sight. Contrary to what the mainstream media would have you believe, standing on a picket line is no fun and not where we want to be. It is a place to which we have been pushed. Six days of strikes and I’ve managed to visit picket lines at Selhurst, Norwood, London Bridge, Three Bridges, Horsham, Eastbourne, Brighton and Barnham. From these visits several things have become clear: our members are disgusted with Southern’s disregard for our safety concerns and outraged by the company’s approach to industrial relations, but, above all, they are solid. Whether in the capital, on the south coast or anywhere in between, spirits on the picket lines are high and our members are solidly behind the industrial action and solidly behind A.S.L.E.F. On behalf of the executive committee I want to say thank you all for your strength, resolve and loyalty. Thanks also to our members who made the journeys from the Isle of Wight, Salisbury and Sheffield to show solidarity with our pickets. Your support is greatly appreciated.


Mick Whelan has responded to news that GTR/Southern, after losing in the High Court, and in the Court of Appeal, is seeking leave to take its case to the Supreme Court. He said: ‘What a waste of time and money! The High Court, and the Appeal Court, have already ruled that our industrial action on Southern Railways is entirely lawful. Instead of dragging this out, and wasting everybody’s time and money, the company should be sitting down with us and trying to resolve the issue.’ 

Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Tuesday 10th January 2017





The good the bad and the ugly

GS Mick Whelan reflected last month on how it felt to be caught in the eye of a political, industrial and media storm. Now Keith Richmond looks at how A.S.L.E.F., and our industrial action on Southern, have been covered in print, on television, on radio and online

The strike, and overtime ban, on Southern Railways is an industrial, not a political, dispute – whatever it suits Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Rail Minister Paul Maynard, and a clutch of under briefed backbench Tory MPs to claim. It is unusual because it is not a battle for more pay, better Terms &Conditions, or a shorter working week, but a row over passenger safety.

Not that you would realise this from some of the lazy, dishonest – and sometimes downright malicious coverage that A.S.L.E.F., and this dispute, has had. The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph were, predictably, the worst.


Mario Ledwith in the Mail tried to make our industrial dispute political with a story about Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and EC president Tosh McDonald – Corbyn Led Standing Ovation For Strike ‘Comrade’ (2nd January) – while Lucy Osborne – who cheerfully admitted ‘the editor doesn’t like strikes, strikers or trade unions’ – wrote ‘A.S.L.E.F. has banned its members from doing overtime’ (5th January) even though it was explained to her that members had voted overwhelmingly for an overtime ban. She also deliberately got the general secretary’s salary wrong (7th January) by including pension provision and NI contributions despite being provided with the correct figure.

Patrick Foster, swallowing an inaccurate briefing by the D.f.T., went big on Union Leader Warns Of 10 Years Of Unrest in the Daily Telegraph (13th December) while

Robert Mendick, chief reporter of the Sunday Telegraph, took Mick to task for Disingenuous Claims Of Firebrand Union Boss Behind Rail Strikes (8th January) although he did concede, after attacking what the R.M.T. said about an O.R.R. report into D.O.O., ‘A.S.L.E.F.’s response was rather more slick’.

The Sun (22nd December) tried to make something of nothing with Unionists’ 2 Days Off Rails while the Evening Standard splashed with Rail Strike Boss Off To Work By Car (6th January) – a risible story which prompted Mark Ellis of the Daily Mirror to laugh ‘Man has lift with wife shock!’ – and went with Strike Bosses Accused of Being Dictators (12th January) above quotes from Tom Tugendhat, Tory MP for Tonbridge & Malling.

The cartoonists had a field day too, with Mac in the Mail (15th December) and Adams in the Telegraph (19th December) imagining Jeremy, Tosh and Santa at Christmas.


Conrad Landin interviewed District Organiser No.1 Graham Morris for a piece which appeared in the Morning Star under the headline We Are Determined To Win - Passenger Safety Too Important To Risk, and The News Line, the paper of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, splashed on Southern Are Bullies! (both on 11 January) after talking to Graham on a picket line at

London Bridge. Driver Only Safety Claim Blown Apart By Accident by Morning Star news editor Will Stone (12th January) with a picture of an incident on an F.G.W. service at Hayes & Harlington underlined our point that the traction interlocking system doesn’t always work.

Mick was interviewed by Simon Hattenstone for a flattering flagship profile in The Guardian (14th January) and Tosh talked to Danny Scott for a fascinating Life in the Day feature in the Sunday Times Magazine (15th January). And Gwyn Topham wrote a typically thoughtful, and well-informed, analysis on the problems in the rail industry – Is Britain’s Train System Getting Worse? – in The Guardian (7th January).

Our officers have been working hard to get our message across. Mick was interviewed by John Humphrys on Today on Radio 4; by Richard Westcott for B.B.C. News; and by I.T.V. News; Sky News; C4 News; C5 News; by Sally Taylor on B.B.C. South Today; by Eddie Mair on P.M. on Radio 4; by Nick Ferrari on L.B.C.; and on Daily Politics on B.B.C.2.

AGS Simon Weller talked to Vanessa Feltz on B.B.C. Radio London; became a frequent guest on the breakfast and drive time shows on B.B.C. Sussex and B.B.C. Surrey; appeared on B.B.C. Breakfast with Steph McGovern; talked to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2; and Michael Crick on C4. Graham Morris was interviewed by Radio 5 Live and Helen Catt, political editor of B.B.C. South-East, while E.C. No.1 Marz Colombini talked to B.B.C. London and went live, at length, on 5 Live.


B.B.C. South-East disingenuously claimed that A.S.L.E.F. was invited to take part in a debate on the dispute recorded on Sunday 8 January and broadcast on B.B.C.1, in the south-east, the next day. We weren’t. Michael Gravesande, the executive producer, invited Charles Horton of Southern; Huw Merriman, Tory MP for Bexhill & Battle; Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem member of the London Assembly; and Mick Lynch of the R.M.T. to be on a four-person panel. We were offered a chance to sit in the audience. Lauren Worrall, the assistant producer, promised we could sit in the front row and added: ‘I guarantee you will get to ask a question.’

It is, of course, the corporation’s call who it invites to be on its panel though – given that A.S.L.E.F. was the union on strike – it was a perverse editorial judgement. Quentin Smith, editor of BBC South-East Today, subsequently rang to apologise but continued to maintain the fiction that an opportunity to sit in the audience was ‘an invitation to participate in our debate’.

We live in a free society, with a free press, which has had, for 300 years, the right to be partial, and the right to be wrong. But in a post-truth world where the alt- right embraces fake news, it was sad to see Auntie, in the south- east, turn its back on Lord Reith and sell the licence payers short. 

Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Wednesday 11th January 2017





Anatomy of a strike

A.S.L.E.F. drivers on Southern Railways began taking industrial action in December. 

But the antecedents of this strike go back almost a year.

Keith Richmond examines the background to a bitter industrial dispute with no end in sight 

Last month as at the end of last year, Southern Railways ground to a halt. That is what happens when train drivers walk out. No driver, no train. A.S.L.E.F represents 96% of the train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales and members don’t cross picket lines. So when drivers go on strike – as on Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th and Friday 16th December and then again on Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th and Friday 13th January – the train company is unable to provide the service it promised to deliver in its franchise application. Also, drivers have not been working overtime since Tuesday 6 December and, as Southern refuses to employ the number of drivers it knows it needs, it has been cancelling one in four services on non-strike days, too.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers have been left frustrated and, on occasion, bewildered. Most blame the hapless senior management at what commuters call Southern Failways; some blame Chris Grayling, and his predecessor at the Department for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin; very few blame the drivers, or their union, because they know this is not a strike for more money, a shorter working week, or better terms and conditions, but is action for the safety of the rail network. And the vast majority of passengers – 73% in a survey carried out by Opinium in May last year – want a guard on every train.


This dispute began, effectively, one year ago, though officials at the D.f.T. and managers at G.T.R. had been planning it for some months before that. On 18 February 2016 Peter Wilkinson, a controversial figure who earns £265,000 a year as director of rail passenger services at the D.f.T., got up at a public meeting in Croydon, south London, hosted by Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, and said he was looking forward to ‘punch ups’ with trade unions over his plans to force through changes to rosters.

He said: ‘I’m furious and it has got to change – we have got to break them. They have all borrowed money to buy cars and got credit cards. They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place. They will have to decide if they want to give a good service or get the hell out of my industry.’ Croydon councillor Jeet Bains tweeted: ‘Peter

Wilkinson absolutely hammering train drivers. Called them muppets.’ Wilkinson’s comments were so bizarre that Sameena Rizwi was forced to deny claims that her boss was drunk when he got up to speak.

As well as his inflammatory language, Wilkinson told a string of porkies – claiming drivers earn £60,000 a year basic and have the same ‘fire break’ rest stops as when trains were run on coal – but he had, deliberately or inadvertently, revealed what he, the DfT, and GTR intended to do.

We wrote to Patrick McLoughlin seeking clarification of Wilkinson’s comments and asked if they reflected government policy. McLoughlin – who, like his Rail Minister Claire Perry, refused to meet us to hear our concerns – did not deny that Wilkinson was speaking for the government.


A.S.L.E.F. is opposed to driver only operation in all its forms, including driver controlled operation and driver door operation. We believe this method of operation is less safe for passengers, and staff, and we will not agree to the introduction and/or extension of D.O.O., D.C.O. or D.D.O. We will, however, honour agreements already in place even while we seek to change them.

Govia – a partnership between the British bus and train company Go Ahead (65%) and the French private sector transport operator Keolis (35%) – got a seven year contract in 2014. Having merged Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Great Northern it is the largest rail franchise in the UK.

It is not a conventional franchise, but a management contract, in which the government, not the company, takes all the financial risk – G.T.R. is paid to run the franchise and the government takes the fare box. That made it the perfect vehicle, Wilkinson told McLoughlin, to force through changes –’ we’re going to have punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support’ – because the company would not suffer a loss of revenue through industrial action.

In March G.T.R./Southern notified us of its intention to introduce 12-car D.O.O. on Gatwick Express on 9 April. We informed the company, our branches and reps, that there was no agreement between the company and the union for this nor had the company sought to negotiate its implementation with us.

On 9 April a member refused to drive the new formation Class 387 train as D.O.O. The company claimed we had induced members to breach their contracts and instructed us to inform drivers that they were contractually obliged to operate these new trains. Our members were clearly not contractually obliged to operate these trains and when we did not instruct our members the company sought an injunction against us, which the High Court granted on 22nd April, saying it regarded the communication of our understanding of agreements to members as ‘inducement’. We were required to notify members that they were expected to drive 12- car D.O.O. trains on Gatwick Express. The court did, however, acknowledge our right to campaign in a ballot for industrial action.


The result of that ballot, announced on 23rd May, was an overwhelming mandate for action but the company sought – and on 2 June was granted – a further injunction, challenging the validity of the ballot on the grounds that it relied on our alleged inducement of its members. The High Court also instructed the General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary, Executive Committee and all representatives to hand over their electronic devices to be searched for evidence of inducement of members.

G.T.R. announced it was going to do the same on Southern and when last-ditch talks at head office on 17th October failed to resolve this dispute – the company refused to negotiate and would only dictate – we balloted drivers who again voted overwhelmingly – 87.3% on a turnout of 77% – to strike, with 95.6% voting for action short of a strike.

The company, which briefed journalists that ‘the law courts are not a happy hunting ground for the labour movement in Britain’ then took us to court. But the High Court, and then the Court of Appeal, both ruled that our strike is entirely lawful.

Peter Wilkinson, Patrick McLoughlin, Chris Grayling, the D.f.T. and G.T.R./Southern have all worked very hard to get where they felt they wanted to be. They are attacking us because they see train drivers, and their trade union, as the enemy. And passengers as collateral damage. 

Brighton A.S.L.E.F. Members (Southern) Picket Lines 

at Brighton Station on Friday 13th January 2017




MARCH 2017

A.S.L.E.F. and Southern

A.S.L.E.F. drivers on Southern Railways rejected in a referendum a proposed resolution to the long-running dispute with the company. The following question was put to members. Do you accept the proposed agreement on driver only operation and related issues on G.T.R. Southern services?

The result was Yes: 317 (45.9%). No: 374 (54.1%). Papers despatched: 953. Papers returned: 693. Invalid papers: 2. Papers to be counted: 691. Turnout: 72.7%.

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, said: ‘We understand and support the decision arrived at democratically by our members and will now work to deliver a resolution in line with their expectations.’

The result of the referendum was announced on 16th February – papers went out on Friday 3rd January and had to be returned by 10 a.m. on Thursday 16th – and the union went back into talks with the company on Tuesday 21st February. 


APRIL 2017

A.S.L.E.F. and Southern

A.S.L.E.F. drivers on Southern Railways have been asked to vote on a proposed resolution to our long running dispute with the company. The following question was put to members. 

‘Do you accept the attached agreement between G.T.R. and A.S.L.E.F.?’ 

Ballot papers were sent out on Thursday 16th March to be returned by Monday 3rd April. 


MAY 2017

A.S.L.E.F. drivers have rejected a proposed resolution to the long-running dispute with Southern Rail.

The following question was put to our driver members employed by the company. Do you accept the proposed agreement on driver only operation and related issues on G.T.R. Southern services? The result was Yes: 346 (48.2%). No: 372 (51.8%). Papers dispatched: 953. Papers returned: 718. Turn out: 75.4%. General Secretary Mick Whelan said after the result of the referendum was announced on 3 April: ‘We understand and support the decision arrived at in a democratic vote by our drivers and will now seek new talks with the company and will work to deliver a resolution to this dispute in line with the expectations of our members.’

Andy Bindon of G.T.R., Southern’s parent company, said:’It’s a hugely disappointing outcome for our passengers, particularly as the agreement carried the full support and recommendation of the A.S.L.E.F. leadership. We have shown a willingness and desire to find a solution to the dispute and we will now, once again, sit down with the union, understand the issues which led to this regrettable decision by the drivers, and try and find a way forward to resolving it.’ 


16th November, 2017

After 18 Months’ Myths, Let’s Set The Record Straight On Southern Rail

by Mick Whelan

Aslef drivers on Southern Railways voted overwhelmingly this month to accept a proposed resolution to our long-running industrial dispute with the company – 731 (79.1 per cent) voted yes to the deal while 193 (20.9 per cent) said no, on an 87.1 per cent turnout.

We are pleased that our members, after careful consideration, and long and very hard negotiations, voted to accept this deal which works for the staff, and the company. We now look forward to working with Southern to restore good industrial relations and deliver the service that passengers in the region deserve.

The resolution to the dispute, which began in April last year – when the company sent out notices to our members saying it intended to introduce new working practices, without consultation or negotiation, four months later – dealt with three separate issues of driver-only operation, terms and conditions of employment, and pay.

The agreement means we will have a second safety-trained person on every service covered by the agreement except in very exceptional circumstances. That person will have all the relevant safety competence, including the skills necessary to evacuate passengers in an emergency.

It confirms the terms and conditions under which our members at Southern are employed – T&Cs which were ripped up by the company last year.

And the agreement gives our drivers a 28.5 per cent increase in pay over the next five years, covering the pay settlements due in October 2016, albeit a year late, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, providing a structured five-year deal through to the end of the franchise.

There’s been a lot of misleading information about our agreement, so here are the facts:

Aslef has ensured that no additional trains on Southern will be rostered without a second safety-trained member of staff.

Aslef has ensured that no additional trains will run without a second safety-trained member of staff on board except in very exceptional circumstances when all other options have been fully exhausted.

Those circumstances are:

  • late notification (defined as less than two hours before booking-on time) of sickness or the granting of emergency leave of absence at the start of duty;
  • when the second safety-trained person is displaced by service disruption, late running and/or driver/OBS error from misreading diagrams or being left behind on a platform;
  • when an OBS is unable to continue duty having commenced the booked diagram, through sickness or having to leave the service to assist with a customer service incident or emergency.

In all these circumstances, arrangements must be made to restore an OBS to the service at the earliest opportunity.

Aslef has ensured that all second safety-trained staff across the franchise are permanently and directly employed.

Aslef has ensured that more second safety-trained staff will be recruited. So jobs have been created. Not lost.

The resolution accepted by our drivers on Southern Rail applies only to that company and that franchise.

This deal is company-specific and does not have implications for any other train operating company on Britain’s railway network. Since the break-up of British Rail, and the privatisation of our railway, we have negotiated on a bi-lateral basis with each company and that is what we have done here.

After one-and-a-half years of industrial strife we wanted to find a way forward for our members who work on the railway in this region, for the passengers who use Southern trains, and for the businesses which depend on the service. This deal is a resolution to a dispute, not a template for Britain’s railway in the 21st century.

Mick Whelan is general secretary of ASLEF, chair of the Trade Union and Labour Party Organisation, 

and a member of Labour’s national executive committee.



A.S.L.E.F. drivers vote yes to Southern deal

A.S.L.E.F. drivers have overwhelmingly voted yes to a proposed resolution to the long-running industrial dispute with southern railways – 731 (79.1%) voted yes and 193 (20.9%) voted no on a turnout of 87.1%

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, said: ‘our members on southern, after careful consideration, and long and hard negotiations, have voted to accept this resolution to our industrial dispute with the company. We are pleased with a resolution which, we believe, works for the staff, and the company, and we now look forward to working with southern rail to restore good industrial relations and deliver the service passengers in the region deserve.’ The resolution to the dispute, which began in April last year (2016), dealt with three different issues – driver only operation, terms and conditions, and pay.

‘The agreement means we will have a second safety-critical person on every train covered by this agreement except in exceptional circumstances. That person will have all the relevant safety competence – including the skills to evacuate passengers in an emergency.

‘The agreement also confirms the terms and conditions under which our members at southern are employed.

‘And the agreement gives our drivers a 28.5% increase in pay over the next five years. it covers the october 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 pay settlements, dealing with our outstanding pay claim, and provides a structured five-year deal through to the end of the franchise.’

The resolution accepted by our drivers on southern applies only to that company and that franchise. ‘it’s important to stress that this deal is company-specific and does not have implications for any other train operating company on Britain’s railway network,’ said Mick. ‘since the break-up of British Rail, and the privatisation of our railway, we have negotiated on a bi-lateral basis with each company and that is what we have done here.

‘After one and a half years of industrial strife we wanted to find a way forward for our members who work on the railway in this region, for the passengers who use Southern Trains, and for the businesses which depend on the service. 

This deal is a resolution to a dispute, not a template for Britain’s railway in the 21st century.’ 


JULY 2017

The seventh annual ASLEF Brighton reunion was on 2nd May – and what a fantastic afternoon it was. It was well attended, with drivers old and new. These events are not just about honouring our retired members but also a fantastic opportunity for new drivers to meet, share stories (and a beer or two) and keep the solidarity across the generations alive. Our General Secretary presented service badges including a 50 year medallion to retired railwayman Spike Jones and an engraved decanter on behalf of Brighton branch to Paul Edwards. I would like to thank Mick Whelan, Marz Colombini and Graham Morris for attending as I know how busy their schedules are. Also a huge thank you to Paul for all his hard work in making this event happen and the success it was. See you next year!

Jem Hannam, 

Branch Secretary 


Jem Hannam Collection

Spike Jones receiving his 50 year medallion

Jem Hannam Collection
Paul Horan receiving his 30 year badge
Jem Hannam Collection
Andy Snelling receiving his 30 year badge
Jem Hannam Collection
Paul Edwards receiving his presentation 
for his services to the Brighton Branch





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