New Year, new hope, new fears

We face the New Year, as always, full of hope and aspiration but aware of the many challenges ahead, not only in protecting 

our terms and conditions, but industrially and politically.

The government’s decision not to protect our steel industry, while other countries support theirs, makes us think not only of 

the workers and families affected but also the supply chain, and transport of materials, and finished product, and the 

implications for rail freight as we await decisions on future contracts.

The Trade Union Bill, signalling the end of a democratic voice for millions of people, has passed in the Commons and now 

we have to campaign against it in the Lords.

Industrially, we welcome investment in new trains, but not at the expense of other grades. Investment should improve service

and safety, not reduce dwell times and put greater strain on the driver. We shall not be supporting D.O.O. where the E.C.

determines it does not fall within existing agreements or is new. That decision is underlined by two incidents that make a 

mockery of any pretension the industry has to safe running. The first is the prosecution of a conductor in Liverpool, 

exonerated by company and industry investigations, and our sister union has our backing in this travesty. The second, which is 

subject to a number of high level meetings as this edition of the Journal goes to press, is an R.A.I.B. report that says we can 

no longer rely on traction interlock and have to subsequently check again. This makes a nonsense of the safety case for 

D.O.O. and means we should be in degraded working, depending on getting out and checking every door individually. Much 

better to have a guard on every train and every platform properly manned.

In the case of sliding door stock, with a guard at unmanned platforms, trains should not run because once the conductor has 

done the platform check, stepped inside, closed the local door and engaged interlock, how would they do the subsequent 

visual check? We were sold interlock on the basis you cannot get power if there is an obstruction or the brakes come on; if it is 

lost, better or more sensitive technology, not poor guidance, has to be the solution!

Kellingley colliery closed on 18th December and our thoughts are with those who lost their jobs. It’s the Thatcher legacy and 

we know that this year, like every year, we will have to fight for everything we want, and fight to keep what we have.

Yours fraternally

Mick Whelan

General Secretary



Unions say no go D.O.O.

A.S.L.E.F. and the R.M.T. have told Britain’s privatised train operating companies that there will be no extension of Driver

 Only Operation – whatever it is called, and whatever initials are employed – on the railway network in this country. In a 

fierce warning shot across the bows of the TOCs, and the Department for Transport, Mick Whelan, general secretary of 

A.S.L.E.F., and Mick Cash, general secretary of the R.M.T., said: ‘We are completely opposed to Driver Only Operation and 

its forms, including Driver Controlled Operation and Driver Door Operation, throughout the network. We firmly believe this 

method of operation is less safe for passengers and the workforce and our unions will not agree to the extension of D.O.O. or 

D.C.O. or D.D.O. under any circumstances. This includes recent proposals for D.O.O. by Great Western in respect of the new 

I.E.P. trains and the government’s proposals for D.C.O. for the next Northern Rail franchise.

‘The responsibility of the driver of the train is to drive, which requires 100% focus. It is less safe for both the driver and for 

passengers if the driver is distracted by additional duties such as protecting the platform train interface. The guard/conductor 

should retain responsibility for door operation.

‘We are particularly concerned, for example, that there have been a number of incidents in the last year across all sectors 

where even more pressure has been placed on drivers, rather than questioning the safety of D.O.O.

‘We are also opposed to D.O.O. and D.C.O. and D.D.O. because its introduction would remove the current guarantee that 

passengers will always have a safety critical second person on the train who can not only deal with emergencies but also 

provide general reassurance and assistance to passengers.

‘It is essential for the safety of both the driver and the passengers to have the guarantee of a guard/conductor on the train to 

protect the driver and passengers in the event of driver incapacity. This was demonstrated by a recent incident at Sutton 

Weaver where a driver received a severe electrical shock and was assisted by the guard, who was able to call for the 

emergency services, and accompany a doctor who was travelling on the train to provide emergency first aid.

‘With record passenger numbers we now need more, not fewer, rail staff. Services for passengers should be improved by 

investment in modern railway infrastructure and rolling stock – not by dismissing and deskilling guards and placing even 

more responsibility on the driver. ‘We will campaign in unity to oppose any extension of D.O.O., D.C.O. and D.D.O. and to 

seek to explore ways of reversing it where it has been introduced. This will include making our views clear to employers, 

government, and other politicians.’


APRIL 2016

Wilko raises the bar for railway pay talks

I want to thank all those working for our members in Freightliner and D.B.S. hit by the serial effects on the freight sector of 

the loss of steel and coal traffic. This loss – 16% plus in areas already economically depressed – is a bitter pill to swallow for 

the whole supply chain. Every officer and company council member is working hard to ensure those impacted are given every 

opportunity to stay on the railway.

The Shaw report flirts with further fragmentation of the railway to offset investment debt. There is talk of selling off 18 major 

stations so Network Rail can concentrate on its core business. Rumours abound about the sale of the overhead line structure, 

and communications structure, of the railway. None of this makes economic or operational sense.

Meanwhile the competition authority, endorsed by the O.R.R., suggests breaking up inter-city routes to encourage open 


More madness! Interesting, of course, that it’s only on lines that generate a surplus. These must be the only bits of the railway 

that need more – albeit smaller – geographical monopolies?

And we have Peter Wilkinson of the DfT, on £265k a year, publicly declaring that he is going to rip up the contracts of all 

those £60k a year three days a week train drivers? Apparently we all have big cars and credit cards and will crawl back after a 

couple of days on strike. To my knowledge there are no £60k a year three days a week drivers but maybe this base line of his 

should be the basis of all our future pay claims? We could call it the Wilkinson formula!

More importantly, is this DfT policy or did Wilkinson go rogue? We have asked the Transport Secretary to comment and 

asked what he is going to do about this person. And we reserve the right to take action if any driver suffers abuse or assault 

arising from his lies. As I said during the Night Tube and junior doctors disputes, they use this dirty tactic of demonising 

people publicly to damage their terms and conditions and futures. I wonder, is it our turn again?

Finally, I was overwhelmed by the massive support to allow me to continue as general secretary of our trade union. The 

numerous messages and endorsements, both within ASLEF and the wider movement, left me truly humbled and more 

determined not to let you down. Deepest thanks, as I see this as recognition of the work all of us in A.S.L.E.F. do together.

Yours fraternally

Mick Whelan 

General Secretary


APRIL 2016

DfT boss who called drivers ‘muppets’ forced to apologise

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, has forced a government official–who stepped out of line on a public platform – to 

grovel after he called train drivers ‘muppets’ and told us to ‘get the hell out of my industry.’

Peter Wilkinson, who earns £265,000 a year as director of rail passenger services at the Department for Transport, faced calls 

for his resignation after his extraordinary comments at a public meeting in Croydon, south London. Wilkinson, who lives in 

Vienna, and commutes to work by plane, as he prefers not to travel by train, said he was looking forward to ‘punch ups’with 

trade unions over his plans to force through changes to rosters.

Just hours after Mick demanded that Wilkinson withdraw his offensive remarks he offered this half- hearted apology: ‘I 

apologise for any offence caused by my comments. I care passionately about the rail industry and I am committed to helping 

government deliver a better rail service for passengers. To do this we need to work with the whole of the rail industry.’ The 

DfT added: ‘It is right that Peter Wilkinson has apologised for his comments.’

But Mick said: ‘This bland unacceptable non-apology does nothing to restore faith or trust in the DfT for those in the frontline 

who deliver the railway every day.’

Mick has written to Patrick McLoughlin to ask if the Secretary of State for Transport thinks ‘the term muppet is appropriate 

language to use about staff who deliver the rail services we rely on every day’ and to ask whether Wilkinson’s views ‘reflect 

those of the DfT.’

As well as his inflammatory language, Wilkinson told a string of lies – including the claim that drivers have the same 

‘firebreak’rest stops as when trains were run on coal – at a meeting at the town hall organised by Gavin Barwell, Conservative 

MP for Croydon Central.

He said: ‘I’m furious about it 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, Conservative 

member for Coulsdon West, happily tweeted: ‘Peter Wilkinson absolutely hammering train drivers. Called them muppets.’ 

The comments were so bizarre that Sameena Rizwi of the DfT had to deny her boss had been drinking before speaking.

Wilkinson is a controversial figure, disliked at the department but said to have the backing of ministers. His salary is one bone 

of contention; Wilkinson earns £90,000 more than his boss, the permanent secretary, at the DfT; £30,000 more than the head 

of the civil service; and £125,000 more than the Prime Minister.


MAY 2016

He wants to break us but doesn’t know you

While, on behalf of our members, we try to deal with the uncertainty in the steel industry, it is hard not to have serious 

concerns for the future of those directly employed. The government’s belated action, to deal with an issue of which they had 

prior knowledge, is not just woeful and inadequate but negligent; particularly for voting against tariffs to protect our steel 

industry in light of the increased tariffs the Chinese have announced. car manufacturers are concerned for the future and it has 

serious implications for the supply chain. As a country, we cannot afford to be at the whim of another nation dominating the 

market, destroying competition, and then ramping up the price of essential materials in the future.

The Wilkinson affair rumbles on. There is, apparently, no retraction of his lies about £60k a year three day a week train drivers 

and we are not aware of any action being taken against him. But his influence in directing, from his £265k a year seat, the 

poor ITTs, and the consequences of seeking to impose conditions outside our agreements, has started on southern G.T.R. and 

Gatwick Express with other TOCs gearing up with similar nonsense. He said he would break us and we have asked the 

Department for Transport and the government whether this is their policy? surprise, surprise! That question has not been 

answered. They obviously do not know you, or what you expect from your union.

Transport for London are at it again. They won’t pay the due rise until June. What a poor employer! morale was already low 

and the system is creaking. our hopes lie with a new mayor who not only cares about London but those who work to keep the 

capital running.

Like many of you, i have stood on picket lines showing support for the junior doctors. They know, better than anyone, what 

safe patient care is and how to achieve it. mr Hunt, who seems to have gone missing in action, patently does not and now we 

are having to recruit another 4,000 doctors from abroad. Add to that the thousands of teachers leaving their profession every 

year, exacerbated by academy dogma, and vocation is a dirty word in 2016.

We have lost a true friend and comrade in Bro steve grant, former district organiser on the Underground. our thoughts are with 

Doreen, his family and friends. He was, and will be remembered as, one of the best.

Yours fraternally

Mick Whelan

General Secretary


JUNE 2016

Standing shoulder to shoulder on D.O.O.

A.A.D. unanimously backed a motion – moved by Chris Sneddon, Wimbledon, and seconded by Andy Cook, Selhurst – 

calling for a letter of solidarity to be sent to the R.M.T. in their battle over guards’ jobs with G.T.R.

G.S. Mick Whelan said: ‘G.T.R. sent a letter to conductors saying, “We are going to take your jobs away and you may – may! 

get the chance to apply for another job.”The union got involved so the company sent them another letter – the worst letter I’ve 

seen in 20 years – saying they were taking away their travel facilities and car park places – so how do they get to work? – if 

they had the temerity to take industrial action. Then they sent another letter saying they could sign a new contract with worse 

t&cs and they – the company – wouldn’t tell the union. It’s clear what the company is trying to do. They are trying to break 

the union.’

Chris Sneddon said: ‘They’re coming after the R.M.T. now and they’ll be coming after A.S.L.E.F. next. We need to stand 

shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the R.M.T. It's the right thing to do.’

Later, after a long and thoughtful debate, A.A.D. endorsed the E.C. position of no extension of D.O.O. (whatever it’s called, 

however the T.O.C.s try to disguise it). Tim van Tinteren, Sheffield Midland, said: ‘It’s time to draw a line, dig the trenches, 

and prepare for war.’

Kevin Beresford, Doncaster, argued: ‘The principle of D.O.O. has been lost. We should be working with our sister union to 

manage change, and not simply say no, no, no.’

But Dave Calfe, vice-president, persuaded delegates when he said: ‘It’s not just about safety and it’s not just about risk-

assessments. It’s about people’s jobs.’


JULY 2016

The dirty tactics employed by G.T.R. Southern, which are a matter of public record, taking away colleagues’ terms and 

conditions, and encouraging them to go against their union, has resulted in a letter from the R.M.T. General Secretary 

thanking our members for allowing them to park at their homes and giving them lifts when the company removes staff travel 

and car parking from them. The government has not removed the contract from G.T.R. despite it being in default, and it's ever- 

increasing failures. David Brown, the boss, has had his pay packet increased to £2 million which is more than the company 

pays in performance penalties and Claire Perry, the Rail Minister, has taken to quoting our members’ comments, from 

conference, as DfT officials declare war on us. They created this problem: it’s not really about D.O.O, it’s about dwell times; 

when will they ever tell the truth?

Yours fraternally

Mick Whelan

General Secretary

Perry under pressure as Tories say ‘GTR is taking us for a ride’

MPs grilled Southern Rail bosses at Westminster amid mounting anger over delays and cancellations. They laid into 

Southern’s ‘hapless’ management and the company’s ‘unacceptable’ performance.

Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing & Shoreham, said: ‘They are doing a rubbish job, and need to get their act 

together. We had loads of excuses but very little about the effect on passengers. Train companies get a franchise to deliver 

passengers from A to B, and clearly Southern are not doing it. I think they are taking passengers for a ride, unfortunately not 


Southern, a brand name used by Govia Thamelink Railway, runs train services from Sussex and Kent into London, as well as 

regional services in the south of England. They have come under fire for severe delays, cancellations and trains skipping 

stations. Only half its services arrived on time in April, significantly lower than the national average of 91.3%. Passengers 

have called on the DfT to strip GTR of its franchise before it expires in 2021.

Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, said: ‘We need immediate action. This was made very clear to GTR and I will 

continue to pressure Rail Minister Claire Perry to sort this out.’ Caroline Ansell, Conservative MP for Eastbourne & 

Willingdon, called on GTR to halt planned changes changes to staff in a bid to spare rail passengers more misery. 

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Southern got in trouble when, on its official Southern Rail UK Twitter account, a customer services manager admitted, in 

answer to a customer’s query. 

The original damning tweet about delays: ‘With longer units drivers are not able to see the full length [sic] of the train and are 

unable to dispatch [sic] safely.’ Senior managers realised this admission – correct, of course – was just what ASLEF and the 

R.M.T. have been saying. They subsequently deleted the tweet, leading passengers to complain about censorship.

‘Southern are losing the plot,’ said AGS Simon Weller. ‘It begs the question, if trains are being short- formed for safety, 

because of lack of guards, why are they hell bent on imposing 12 car D.O.O.?’



Prime Minster condemns 

‘unacceptable’ service on Southern Failways

David Cameron, in one of his last acts as Prime Minister, answering a question from Jeremy Quin, Conservative MP for 

Horsham, at PMQs, slammed the performance of Southern Railways – branded Southern Failways by fed- up commuters – as 

‘unacceptable.’ London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the franchise to be taken away from GTR and handed to TfL. And 

passengers have been handing out flyers headlined ‘Urgent Appeal: Have you seen this woman?’ with a photo of Claire Perry 

and the hashtag ‘Where’s Claire?’ because the then Rail Minister went missing in action.

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I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

GREGOR GALL examines how capricious and rapacious employers are using the courts – and the Conservatives’ anti-

union legislation – to push back workers’ rights

ASLEF has found itself at the sharp, and costly, end of the Conservative anti- trade union laws in the last few

months. Twice Govia Thameslink Railway applied for, and was granted, an injunction to prevent industrial action by members 

over the use of 12-car rather than 8-car operation. The bases of the granting of the injunctions were the allegations of the 

absence of a legitimate trade dispute; inducing drivers to take action before balloting; and incorrect members being balloted. 

In the case of the second injunction, costs of £250,000 for the employer were awarded against ASLEF.


Of course, these were not the first or only times in recent years that ASLEF has been up in court for trying to take industrial 

action to protect the safety of the travelling public and the terms and conditions of its members. There have also been cases 

with London Midland and London Underground.

Since 2010, when the Conservatives returned to power, and until this summer, 42 injunctions have been applied for by 

employers – with the overwhelming majority being granted. In addition, 43 threats to make applications for injunctions have 

also been issued by employers. Again, the outcomes have been overwhelmingly favourable – for the employers – with action 

being called off or ballots stood down.

The number of applications for injunctions and threats to apply for them are well down on previous highs in the 1980s and 

1990s. Yet what is noticeable is that the applications, and threats to apply, are increasingly concentrated in a small number of 

sectors of the economy.

Of the 42 applications since 2010, 23 (55%) have been in transport, communications and emergency services. Of the 43 

threats, 21 (49%) have been in transport, communications and emergency services. And what is startling is that 83% of all 

those applications for injunctions in the sectors of transport, communications and emergency services were actually in 

transport alone. 

And the punchline is that well over half of the applications for injunctions concerning transport come from the railway 

(overground and underground) sector. ASLEF and its sister union, the RMT, have been the targets of these injunctions.

So what explains this concentration on the rail sector? Capricious minded and rapacious acting employers are one obvious 

factor – but there are plenty of those outside the rail sector so this cannot be the clincher. Even within the rail sector, there are 

also plenty of occasions when employers do not run to the courts. The current driver only operation dispute between the RMT 

and ScotRail is a case in point – although here ScotRail is using other means to try to undermine strike action by the RMT.


A far more convincing explanation is that employer applications for injunctions highlight a coincidence of aggressive 

management and effective industrial action. In other words, employers are only really concerned about industrial action that 

has the capacity to halt or seriously disrupt their operations and, thus, their revenue and their profits.

That is something of a backhanded compliment from employers as the vast majority of strikes do not have this capacity. Those 

that do have the characteristics of having an immediate effect where there are no existing stockpiles; few alternatives; the 

goods or services are perishable; and supplies of strike breakers do not exist.

Using this as a rule of thumb explains why there are now few groups of workers, other than train drivers, and train crew, that 

have the power to stop employers – if you’ll excuse the pun – in their tracks. Bus drivers are one and Royal Mail postal 

workers are another.

What does all this mean in the ‘brave’ new world of the Trade Union Act 2016? It was passed by Parliament on 4 May this 

year. ASLEF members are unlikely to be troubled by the new statutory thresholds when they come into effect later this year 

(once the commencement orders are issued). This is because turnouts in ballots for industrial action are in excess of a simple 

majority and majorities for action are also above the additional threshold for transport where the majority for action must also 

equate to being above the threshold of 40% of all those entitled to vote voting for action.


That’s another backhanded compliment to ASLEF members. But – and the ‘but’ is a very big one indeed – it still does not 

alter the fact that the Tory anti-union laws of the 1980s onwards will continue to operate as they have before. The 

interpretation of them may even tighten as judges establish new precedents.

The task of removing these laws from the statute book remains as pressing as ever and the only possibility of that happening is 

the re-election of a Labour government with a policy to do so. This means, of course, a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. 

For ASLEF, the same is true for returning rail to public ownership. Only then will the likes of GTR be held in check before 

being done away with altogether.



Passengers’ Southern discomfort

Angry passengers piled more pressure on under-fire Southern boss Charles Horton at a meet the managers session in Victoria 

station. The GTR CEO said commuters had been ‘very honest’ when expressing their frustration with the dismal service – the 

delays, cancellations and reduced timetable – his company provides.

Rona Hunnisett, a charity worker who commutes from Brighton to London, complained that when she asked for ‘a definitive 

time’ that services would improve, she received only ‘waffle and evasion.’ She added: ‘I’m sick of the constant excuses. I pay 

Southern £4,000 a year for a service I don’t get.’

Paul Maynard, the new Rail Minister, has said the current level of service the TOC is offering is unacceptable.

And Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: ‘The level of disruption has been immense, and enough is 

enough. The way in which the strike has been handled demonstrates, yet again, that GTR is not fit for purpose. It’s time to 

strip them of this franchise and put this rail line in public hands. The government has the power to listen to passengers, 

remove the franchise from GTR, freeze fares and compensate people fairly.’

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Web developers frustrated by continuing delays on Southern railways – the company dubbed Southern Failways by long- 

suffering passengers – have used their ordeal as inspiration for a new online game which ridicules the ToC and its ‘rubbish’ 

management. Tens of thousands of angry commuters have downloaded ramJam’s game Southern rail Tycoon – the aim of 

which is to stop guards from boarding trains so services are cancelled and ‘boom’ profits are picked up from passengers. once 

sufficient number of train guards board a train and a delayed service eventually departs, the player loses the game. A 

Southern rail spokesman said: ‘It’s nothing to laugh at.’

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Angry commuter hacks station display board

A disgruntled passenger hacked into a public display board at Blackfriars station to vent his (or her) anger in novel fashion. 

An image of the prank, posted on Reddit, shows the board displaying a Bing search page entitled ‘Thameslink are s***.’ Some 

commuters wondered, online, how someone had managed to hack into the board while others were more concerned about the 

hacker’s choice of search engine. ‘Seriously,’ wrote Kraven 420, ‘Who uses Bing?’ Another user gTr proudly promotes the 

Thameslink are s*** search page on reddit replied: ‘Thameslink, apparently. Explains a lot.’ A Thameslink spokesman said: 

‘This display board has been hacked by a person or persons unknown. We are investigating how it was possible for this to 


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Commuters on Southern Railways – the company critics call Southern Failways – have launched a crowdfunding drive to pay 

for legal action against the Department for Transport for the way it has mishandled the failing franchise. Stephen Trigg, chair 

of the Reigate & Redhill Rail Users’ Association, said: ‘It is important for the government to be held to account for these 





Southern, Doo and the DfT 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 RMT and the TSSA – 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 DfT has come up short.

Speaking from the podium, this is how he introduced himself: ‘Simon Weller, assistant general secretary of ASLEF, 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 DfT is funding this, and the DfT 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.’



Ballot for action on Southern

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

ASLEF 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 Scot rail – 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 


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.’ 

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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 


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 D.F.T.’s claim that no other operator could do a better job in the circumstances was no longer credible, said the 


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 G.T.R. would not address the 

issues and would only create uncertainty and cause further disruption.’ 

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -


Southern had a full scale PR disaster on its hands last month when the company begged beleaguered passengers to tell the 

RMT how they feel about the strikes. The plan – which senior management thought was ‘an absolute hoot!’ – backfired 


Southern tweeted: ‘Tweet @RMTunion & tell them how rail strikes make you feel.’ Hundreds of passengers responded, but 

not in the manner management hoped. 

Simon Cox: ‘I dislike unions but I dislike incompetent management more.’ 

Ferdinand Kingsley: ‘You’re a shambles and this is embarrassing. I hope you lose your franchise.’ 

Ursula Doyle: ‘I support the RMT. You, on the other hand, are a disgrace.’



Covering up

PAUL DAVIES, managing director of a management consultancy, 

reveals the cosy relationship between Govia Thameslink Railway and the Department for Transport

Where is undoubtedly a cosy relationship between the Department for Transport and Govia Thameslink railway but perhaps 

more worrying are the attempts to cover up this unhealthy alliance – now orchestrated at the top of the civil service and 

including the cabinet secretary, sir Jeremy Heywood, and the government in the form of the minister for the cabinet office, 

Ben Gummer.

We all have an interest in this – because it appears that the government, and the DfT, are using the relationship with GTR to 

bully the train company’s staff and, as the service deteriorates, to blame the unions to cover up an unhealthy relationship 

between civil servants and a private company.


I started to unravel this cosy relationship, between Govia and the DfT, over what seemed to be initially a fairly trivial matter

the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals service. Parliament required that if penalty fares were introduced, there should be an 

independent appeals service. But it turns out that I.P.F.A.s is anything but independent – in fact it is run as an integral part of 

southeastern Trains – owned, like southern, by govia. To cover this up the DfT and its Permanent secretary Philip Rutnam 

created a web of false information including the statement that I.P.F.A.s was a separate business unit and then ‘an arm’s length 

subsidiary’. Even though he knew neither statement was true, Philip Rutnam has refused to respond to requests to correct 


Nick Bisson, then Director for rail, eventually admitted that every time a penalty fare appeal is turned down, executives of 

govia personally benefit financially – with the blessing of the DfT. A DfT official also admitted that if an appeal is upheld, 

govia’s executives still benefit financially as the DfT has authorised Govia to charge an ‘administration fee’.

This is when i started to smell ‘something rotten in the state of Denmark’. i seemed to be scratching on the surface of a major 

scandal – if the DfT were prepared to help Govia’s executives make money secretly here – what else was going on?

I started to dig deeper and found that David Brown, chief executive of Govia, on a base salary of £2,160,000, used to be head 

of London surface transport – and a colleague of Philip Rutnam. I saw that the contract to run Thameslink wasn’t actually a 

franchise – but a management contract. This meant that Govia could do what it liked but faced no financial risk – it just got 



Charles Horton, who had run southern Trains, and then southeastern, both among the worst performing train companies for 

passengers, now runs GTR – which is absolutely the worst performing company. Peter Wilkinson, who worked with govia to 

win the GTR contract, is now employed by the DfT – on a salary of £265,000 – to manage that contract which is, clearly, a 

conflict of interest. Wilkinson then set about insulting the staff to exacerbate an industrial dispute as a way of disguising the 

appalling service that GTR provide. no one outside the DfT, and civil service, believes govia should be allowed to run 

Thameslink – but Rutnam is determined to protect Govia, and Brown and Horton, at all costs.

I got nowhere with my complaints to the DfT, so I wrote to the chief executive of the civil service, John Manzoni. He refused 

to do anything about the falsehoods authorised by Rutnam, on the grounds that this was government policy on the railways, 

and that my complaints had already been dealt with. i began to see that there was an active cover up of the unhealthy 

relationship between GTR and the DfT, which extends to the very top.

I wrote to sue gray, director general of propriety and ethics in the civil service, who eventually agreed to investigate if Rutnam 

had endorsed a falsehood to the cabinet office and the public to cover up the cosy relationship. i twice had to formally 

complain about her prevarication – her repeated failures to report back – with no response. she finally wrote back at the end of 

July rejecting my complaints without mentioning what the complaints were about! Sue Gray, you might not be surprised to 

learn, has also been at the DfT – and is a former colleague of Philip Rutnam.

I wrote to sir Jeremy Heywood complaining about the cosy relationship between Govia and the DfT. I received a letter back, 

on behalf of sir Jeremy and Mr Gummer, which denied that my complaints had been suppressed. That letter, though, contained 

no facts. my complaints were not dealt with, just denied.


What I have uncovered is a cosy relationship and a scandalous cover up which means that Govia and its executives profit 

unfairly, that Govia is allowed to run an appalling train service regardless of the misery inflicted on passengers and staff, and 

that senior civil servants believe they can act and behave appallingly, without public accountability. meanwhile the reputation 

of our railway is being trashed.

We should all demand an independent inquiry – so we can lay bare the appalling scandal at the heart of this relationship 

between Govia and the DfT.



DOO illegal says Dot

The national Pensioners’ convention, Britain’s biggest organisation for senior citizens, says driver only operation is illegal 

under the Equality Act. ‘our concern is that if a driver only train runs to an unstaffed station, with a passenger who is unable to 

exit the train unassisted, an offence will be committed under the Equality Act 2010 by putting that person at a substantial 

disadvantage,’ said Dot Gibson, general secretary of the N.P.C. ‘This needs to be understood and acted upon by the office of 

rail and road, the Department for Transport and the train operating companies. After 30 years of commitment, effort and 

public expenditure, to 

ensure disabled people can travel by train with confidence, we risk taking a retrograde step that will effectively deny people 

these hard-won rights and freedoms.’

The Rail Safety Standards Board says Southern’s plan to remove guards from trains will disadvantage disabled and elderly 


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 


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 there 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




In the eye of the storm

The say it’s peaceful at the eye of the storm but, let me assure you, it’s not. You quickly learn that the media, the government, 

and some of the public don’t care about the real issues. The media, with one or two interesting exclusions, pander to the 

rhetoric about nasty unions hurting working people. I am yet to hear many people defend us for standing up not for gain, but 

for safety, on GTR Southern. And where is the public outcry for 1,116 freight train drivers facing uncertainty at DBC after 

years of loyal service?

The government has chosen not to intervene or investigate the issues that may put the viability of our infrastructure at risk and 

do not hear a lot from the appropriate industry quangos. As for GTR Southern, having employed them to do their dirty work, 

and caused all the issues that face us, the government attacks our right to strike; something we never do lightly or without 

family, and personal, cost. They’re getting desperate when they claim we are seeking to bring down the Tories; we are simply 

reacting to issues not of our making. Apparently we have a pact with sister trade unions; we do not, we have a joint campaign 

and are not even both affiliated to the same political party and, of course, compete with them in several areas.

We understand that passengers, paying inflated fares for a service that was crap before any action was taken, are naturally 


Evidence of full crews sitting around while trains are cancelled makes you wonder what the company is up to. But we are 

receiving far more messages of support and 73% of the public want a guard on every train.

I am never surprised at the solidarity and unity you are showing at this difficult time. The constant drip feed of lies that we are 

refusing meetings, or of offers being made, and of course taking us to court, is all designed to undermine that. Offers to meet 

if we suspend or cancel action are not genuine; going to ACAS to be told ‘let us complete what we are doing and then we can 

talk about how we normalise relationships’ is not an offer, and you would rightly castigate us if we pursued either of those 


This is not about DOO, but dwell times, and is a scenario likely to be repeated in other franchises in coming years.

Despite our challenges, may I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Yours fraternally

Mick Whelan

General Secretary

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

at Brighton Station on Friday 16th 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 


‘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




Sign o’ The Times

MICK WHELAN spoke out in response to a letter published in The Times on 21 November which was picked up as a news 

story and for a leading article in the paper. The tendentious contribution, from Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail 

Delivery Group, was co-signed by Martin Griffiths of Stagecoach; Mark Carne of Network Rail; Karen Boswell of Hitachi; 

David Higgins of HS2; Russell Mears of Freightliner; David Begg ofTransport Times and ‘a further 20 names’ according to 

the paper in a clumsy but co-ordinated campaign to push DOO.

‘It’s a shame that Paul Plummer doesn’t know what he’s talking about,’ said Mick. ‘What Mr Plummer – who, with his 

background in accounting, has no operational experience of Britain’s railways – mendaciously refers to as ‘modern 

technology’ is in fact nothing of the sort; it is technology designed in the 1970s, and introduced in the 1980s, which is 

palpably unfit for the number of passengers we have in the 21st century.

‘What Mr Plummer disingenuously refers to as “smarter working” is, in fact, a desire to cut corners, and cut costs, and bring 

in zero hours contracts, in order to drive up profits for the privatised train operating companies that he represents.

‘As the trade union which represents Britain’s train drivers, we, too, believe in investment in the railways; but investment in 

what should be a public service, run properly and efficiently for passengers, businesses and taxpayers, not for the TOCs 

which, as we see every day on Southern Railways, are manifestly failing passengers as well as staff. We would be willing to 

debate this publicly with Mr Plummer, any time, any place.’

We sent a letter refuting all of Paul Plummer’s allegations but The Times, which acknowledged receipt of our response, chose 

not to publish it.

DfT ‘in bed with GTR’

Paul Davies, who wrote about the relationship between GTR and the DfT in the Journal(November), has launched a campaign 

on the 38 Degrees website for an inquiry into the conduct of Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary at the Department for 

Transport. ‘I’ve launched a petition I hope you will sign – and let’s hope we get 100,000 signatures because that will trigger a 

Parliamentary debate. Rutnam authorised falsehoods to the Cabinet Office to protect the cosy relationship with Govia,

subjecting the travelling public to unacceptable conditions on Southern. It’s a management contract which means Govia takes 

no financial risk, the public pays compensation if GTR fails, and it fails daily, and Govia’s understaffing results in higher 

profits. Rutnam has presided over the East Coast franchise debacle, the West Coast re-franchising debacle, the failure of 

Western electrification to deliver on time or on budget, and the catastrophe at GTR-Southern.’



The last bastion of truth and integrity

HAVE never understood the politics of envy but always supported the ethos of aspiration, fairness, dignity and respect. As an 

organisation we have never subscribed to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that we are a society of individuals but have campaigned 

on all the issues that impact on us and our families, from the NHS to social care to dignity in retirement, education, and 

investment. This, of course, after we have undertaken the union’s primary role over terms and conditions, wages and safety. 

The 136 year history of this craft trade union is one we are rightly proud of, but I’m not sure those who are not in a union 


Polling and research shows people want a well-invested, safe and affordable green integrated railway that works for the 

travelling public, the taxpayer, the freight sector and those who work in it. Strange, then, when we raise issues affecting the 

freight sector and the future maintenance of our infrastructure, there is no government support and those stakeholders we 

speak to are incredibly reluctant to say publicly that they share our concerns. Well, we won’t shut up in the light of hundreds 

of job cuts and the government’s trite response that ‘the market will assert itself will come back and haunt them as confidence 

seeps from the sector.

Even odder, given the many messages of support we have received, is the media frenzy over the dispute on GTR/Southern. 

Where is the concern over a dishonourable employer ripping up agreements and dragging us to court? Where the concern over 

Peter Wilkinson’s claims in Croydon that he would orchestrate this dispute? We hear nothing from ministers about that. Nine 

months of court action and we eventually go on strike, and highlight the company’s reliance on our goodwill and overtime to 

run its service, and the whole world wants to end the right to strike! Desperate Tory MPs claim the strife their policies caused 

is political – the last refuge of the inept – while a baying media calls us anti-worker.

Trade unions are the last bastion of truth and industrial integrity in the UK. We fight to make the lives of our members, and 

their families, better. We will never apologise for that but we do empathise with those impacted by our action. And, every day, 

the solidarity and unity you show inspires me.

Yours fraternally

Mick Whelan 

General Secretary

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 


– 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. 


Executive Committee Member No.1 MARZ COLOMBINI 


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 



Mick Whelan has responded to news that G.T.R./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 atLondon 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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 

2nd 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 


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. and Southern

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.’ 

Grayling’s aim to de-staff the railway

District 1 Council Secretary


welcomed Andy McDonald to Waterloo

DISTRICT 1 Council warmly welcomed the Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald, to our March meeting at Waterloo 

Action Centre. Andy, who spoke at AAD in Aviemore last year, said he felt he knew us all and was impressed by the way 

ASLEF meetings are conducted. The Middlesbrough MP’s visit coincided with important Commons business, so he dashed 

over from a debate on climate change and had to rush back for the afternoon session; but his visit was much appreciated.

Andy said he had mostly been occupied by the issue of DOO and realises how important the dispute on Southern has become. 

He feels the debate has been misrepresented in order to achieve Chris Grayling’s intention of de-staffing the railway, saving 

the Exchequer billions of pounds, and realising the Tories’ ambition to weaken ASLEF’s ability to adequately defend our 


In his view support for freight is crucial not only for our members facing redundancy, but for cutting back on road congestion 

and improving air quality.

Andy emphasised the point that guards are a crucial element of keeping our trains safe, not only from an operational point of 

view, but also by keeping the public safe from anti-social behaviour, and helping those with disabilities.

He recognises that our rail network is a vital element of the UK’s national infrastructure and a fully integrated public transport 

system is essential. He reiterated Labour’s pledge to bring the railway back into public ownership and said he will continue 

listening to and working with the rail unions.


JULY 2017

2017 A.A.D.

Bringing them back to the negotiating table

E.C.No.1 Marz Colombini brought delegates up to date on our long-running dispute with Southern Railways.

‘Our dispute with Southern is a dispute with Southern Rail. It’s not about bringing down the government – despite what a few 

badly-informed Tory backbenchers like to claim – and it is not a dispute designed to undermine the GTR franchise. It is not a 

dispute in support of another trade union or another grade. It was, and is, an industrial dispute over imposed changes in our 

terms and conditions.’

Headded:’The purpose of industrial action is not to indiscriminately damage an employer but to put them under pressure to 

come to the negotiating table when they would not otherwise come to the table. Which is more or less where we find ourselves 

at the moment.’

Peter Scott, Horsham, said: ‘We don’t seem to be working to get this back together. My daughter is a guard and a member of 

the RMT. Told “Become an OBS or lose your job.” Conditions at Southern are toxic. There’s mistrust between the drivers and 

the conductors and the company. And our relationship with the RMT is not in a good place.’

That prompted Gary Comfort, Jubilee Line East, to say: ‘The relationship with the RMT on the Underground is toxic. They 

nick our members, report them, disciplinaries.’

It’s easy as 1-2-3 do-re-mi, A-B-C

GREGOR GALL, professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Bradford, 

looks at the opportunities afforded by protests

organised by the Association of British Commuters against the Conservative government and Southern Rail

COULD it now be as simple as ABC? That is a question for ASLEF and the other rail unions in the light of the founding, by 

disaffected Southern Rail passengers, of the Association of British Commuters. For years, campaigns to properly fund and 

regulate the rail industry, with the ultimate aim of a return to public ownership, have lacked the ability to act effectively in 

concert with the travelling public.

Because, until now, the travelling public has been unorganised and atomised. Passengers grumble – often using expletives – 

when trains break down, signals fail and leaf mulch gets too much. But then they get off the train, get on with their lives, and 

put it all behind them until the next time. And so on, and so on.

But one group of passengers has decided to buck this trend. Arising out of the still continuing disaster that is Southern Rail, 

run by Govia Thameslink Railway, a passenger lobby group called the Association of British Commuters was formed in 

September 2016 after months of delays, cancellations, and overcrowded conditions, with short-staffing and strikes 

compounding these problems.


The old bureaucratic ways by which the rail users’ consultative committees and rail passengers’ councils used to operate were 

thrown out of the window in favour of direct action. For the last year, rail users and local campaigners came together to 

organise protests, initially at Brighton and London Victoria stations.

With the success of these protests, the #SouthernFail campaign was born. Then, in December, the ABC organised a large 

demonstration at Victoria, calling for the resignation of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. They marched to the Department 

for Transport where they called on the government to intervene in the dispute, and for an independent inquiry into the 

shambles at Southern.

Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, believes the ABC represents ‘a new type of 

passenger lobby group organised by young professionals who are adept at using social media’. Currently, the

ABC has 4,000 Twitter followers and some 1,500 friends on Facebook showing it has a bigger reach than these numbers alone 

suggest. Indeed, it crowd-funded £25,000 to launch a judicial review of decisions made by the DfT and the government over 

Govia and Southern.

Out of all this, the ABC has established itself as a non-profit company to represent the interests of the travelling public. So it 

(i) campaigns for a safe, affordable, accessible and reliable transport system – not only in the south of England, but right 

across Britain; 

(ii) provides an online community for discussion by members, volunteers and partner campaigns; 

(iii) seeks to build greater public understanding of the issues surrounding the Southern Rail crisis, as well as transport issues 

around the country; and 

(iv) wants to elevate the voice of the commuter to be heard in Parliament and the national press, while exerting pressure 

on key organisations in the rail industry.


After the announcement of the snap general election, the ABC said ‘there [wa]s no better time for... restat[ing] the demands 

we’ve been making throughout the Southern Rail crisis. We will be addressing all former and prospective MPs with these 

demands and requesting their full response – so we can tell you which candidates have the best positions on Southern Rail’.

And it called for an independent public inquiry into the relationship between Govia Thameslink Railway and the DfT; the 

return of guaranteed assistance for disabled passengers on services currently branded as Southern Rail – best achieved through 

the ‘guard guarantee’; the immediate removal of the Southern contract from GTR; and ‘passenger representation in any 


So the ABC represents a positive development in terms of passengers getting themselves organised. But, before anyone 

concludes that this is manna from heaven for the rail unions, a few issues must be pondered.

Given that it has taken one of the longest and most intractable industrial disputes on Britain’s railways to bring ABC into 

existence, one has to ask – somewhat gingerly – if that is what it will take to get the travelling public organised in other parts 

of the country in order to make the ABC a genuinely national organisation. One hopes not.


Next, it’s possible the ABC will prove to be a ‘flash in the pan’ and peter out of existence if, as and when the Southern 

franchise is sorted out. Once the anger is gone, the momentum and mobilisation will go too.

And, finally, while the rail unions could make common cause with the ABC over increasing rail fares, understaffing, and 

safety issues, etcetera, there will also be times when the likes of ASLEF will be in danger of falling out with the ABC. Most 

obviously, over industrial action in support of a pay claim.

So, while alliances with passengers should be sought, it’s worthwhile not seeing the ABC as a magic panacea. The return to 

public ownership by a Labour government must remain the key priority. And that opportunity may come sooner than we think 

given the Labour advance – and Tory meltdown – on 8 June!



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 


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.’

Taking toilets off our train

Southern rail say they are trying to ‘improve the service’. let me remind you what Southern’s idea of improving the service for 

passengers is. they now run trains between Brighton and Portsmouth with no toilets on them. When challenged they said 

people can get off the train and use the toilets at stations. But most stations have locked their toilets because of vandalism. 

Southern say ‘ask a member of staff to open them for you’. unfortunately, another of Southern’s great ideas for improving the 

service is to remove staff from lots of stations.

Keith Wells, Brighton


JULY 2018

A.A.D. 2018

Southern comfort

E.C. PRESIDENT Tosh McDonald, speaking on Monday, and reflecting on the 18 month dispute with Southern Rail, set out 

ASLEF’s position on driver only operation.

‘Six days on strike, and a six month overtime ban, brought Southern back to the table where we hammered out a deal. Our 

members, on a high turnout, voted overwhelmingly yes to that deal. We secured a second safety- critical person on every train, 

except in exceptional circumstances; and there are fewer exceptional circumstances than when there were guards, as they were 

called. We reinstated the terms and conditions of our members on Southern. The agreement also gave us the pay rise that had 

been missing – a 28.5% pay rise over five years. And I will make no apologies to anyone for securing decent pay rises and 

decent terms and conditions for our members.

‘The things a sister trade union said, well, it’s a nonsense. They made dreadful attacks on our general secretary. We kept a 

dignified silence. Our enemy is the DfT, and GTR, our enemy is not another union.

‘That deal was a resolution to a dispute, not a template for the industry. ASLEF is opposed to DOO. We will honour existing 

agreements. Because we don’t break agreements. But we will seek to change them.’

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