Sussex MPs are calling for soldiers to drive rail replacement buses during the next round of Southern Rail strikes.
The plans could see troops drafted to drive buses on rail routes affected by the ASLEF and RMT train drivers strike next month, MPs Maria Caulfield and Tim Loughton say.
The idea was first put forward by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield earlier this month, in response to news that Southern would not be running its own replacement buses during the industrial action.
Speaking today, Ms Caulfield said: “It is unacceptable that almost 70,000 people in my constituency will be stranded because of industrial action, thousands of people put at risk of losing their jobs and local businesses put in danger of going under because of this.
“It is ultimately their contract and if the Government need to call in the Army to get people where they need to go then that’s what they should do.”
The plans were also backed by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, in a video message posted on his website earlier today (Thursday, December 22).
Discussing a meeting between Prime Minister Theresea May and 23 MPs whose constituents live in areas served by Southern Rail, Mr Loughton said the dispute is “being taken very seriously at the very highest level.”
He said: “We need to take action to persuade the unions to drop this action and if we can’t then we need to take action to make sure these strikes are causing as little inconvenience as possible.
“Measures are being looked at and will be enforced soon I hope, about replacement buses services. I said we should draft in the army to be driving some of these buses. We’ve done it in other strikes before, where there’s an essential service – which is disrupting people’s lives – at stake.”
Mr Loughton’s comments follow news that Mrs May wants to see more replacement buses running during the strike.
Responding to Ms May’s comments, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ”Instead of resorting to lash-up stunts for public relations purposes Theresa May should be instructing her Southern rail contractors to get back round the table and sort out the issues about passenger safety at the heart of this dispute.
“If she’s serious about getting a grip Mrs May needs to scrap that agenda of confrontation and give us an opportunity to engage in genuine and meaningful talks.”
Responding to calls from MPs for the rail operator to run replacement buses during strike dates, a Southern spokesman said: “The wholesale replacement of 2,242 daily services for 300,000 passengers is not realistic.
“However we’re looking at a number of options for what we can do for passengers if this damaging and wholly unjustified strike goes ahead.”
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