Southern Rail has temporarily cancelled more than 300 trains as part of a revised timetable designed to reduce the impact on passengers and staff of unpredictable and late notice cancellations. Operator Govia Thameslink (GTR) has blamed "unprecedented levels" of train crew sickness and "unwillingness" among others to work overtime for the past disruptions.
The employer has also promised to take action to encourage staff back to work and is working with the government to introduce more generous passenger compensation. Alex Foulds, Southern passenger services director, claimed the move to axe 341 services would give customers a "more consistent" service.
"We are introducing this temporary weekday revised timetable with reluctance, but it is the best thing we can do for our passengers who have been suffering daily cancellations ever since this dispute with the RMT began, and for which we are sincerely sorry," Foulds said.
"It should give the majority of our passengers a better, more consistent service that they can plan around. Whilst our first priority is our passengers, we also understand that this has been a difficult time for our staff. Conductors already know that their jobs are guaranteed, that there will be no reduction in salary and that the independent rail safety body has confirmed our plans are safe."
Southern said more than 92% of its services were running to time against the temporary weekday revised timetable implemented on 11 July, at the time of reporting. But transport union the RMT, which represents conductors on the service, warned that the new timetable could create "dangerous overcrowding" on the trains.
"The axing of nearly 350 trains a day by GTR is a crisis measure designed to rig their appalling performance figures. The fewer trains you run, the fewer will be delayed and the better your headline performance statistics will look. That is a fix of epic proportions and the public will not be fooled by this chicanery," said Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT.
"The new timetable also means that the vast reduction in services, approved by the Government, will leave remaining trains dangerously overcrowded and it will be our members at the sharp end left to manage the safety of the passengers while the Minister and her GTR colleagues are tucked away in their plush offices."