Thousands of train passengers in Britain have been caught up in a transport chaos, as a five-day walkout by rail workers enters its second day.
Employees of Southern, one of the UK’s major train operating companies, walked out from their positions on Monday, to protest planned job changes which may lead to staff cuts.
Southern has admitted that 946 of its daily 2,242 trains will be cancelled due to the industrial action which is reportedly the longest of its kind since 1968.
The railways moves some 300,000 passengers from London Victoria and London Bridge to Surrey and Sussex. The company said Monday that it was only able to operate 60 percent of its regular services due to the walkout.
Southern runs trains on of the most congested rail networks in the world and is about to adopt a “driver-only operations” policy on all of its services that it says will help reduce transportation times while increasing the safety of passengers.
According to this policy, which is set by Southern’s operator, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), guards who were in charge of closing and opening carriage doors should leave the task to drivers and instead help passengers get on the train more quickly.
The decision has been disputed by Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which argues the change of jobs will be detrimental to passenger safety.
“Members are taking strike action and losing pay because they are concerned about passenger safety,” the RMT said in a statement.
The union further argued that a 64-percent rise in Southern’s passengers numbers over the past 16 years means that there should always a guard be on board “to protect the safety of the train and passengers.”
RMT has offered to end the strike on condition that GTR agrees to the terms of a deal similar to the one they struck with ScotRail over the safety of passengers.
Southern’s CEO Charles Horton, however, said the union was “not prepared to compromise” despite three days of negotiations last week.
The strike has drawn condemnation from Prime Minister Theresa May and other government figures.