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September 17 2016.

Local M.P MariaCaulfield, has welcomed a letter from the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, in which he set out his commitment to her constituents.

Explaining the dispute between unions and GTR - which has resulted in a number of strikes and months of ‘unofficial strike action’ - the Transport Secretary sets out that state of the art 12 carriage trains, at a cost of some £2 billion and primarily due to operate on the Brighton Main Line, were at the centre of the dispute. The Secretary of State - who as the MP for Epsom & Ewell is well aware of rail users concerns with his own constituents also served by Southern – confirmed that although the role of guards would change, becoming more passenger facing, there would be no job losses or pay cuts.

Highlighting his commitment to a long-term plan for the network, the Transport Secretary also writes that Chris Gibb - former Chief Operating Officer at Virgin - will be paid by Southern, although reporting directly to him, in a role that will see him oversee the restructuring of the model under which Southern & Network Rail work. In effect, this will see the two leave behind their current argumentative relationship, instead opting for a working relationship currently demonstrated by South West Trains in which the two would work closely together to solve issues.

Under the plans, Network Rail will also be expected to take a more pro-active approach to the infrastructure that it maintains, and has already allocated £20m towards improvements to performance on the Southern Network.

Concluding, the Secretary of State confirmed that the issue of compensation had not been forgotten, and that he and the Rail Minister were already looking into ways in which this could be delivered for rail users within the Lewes constituency.

Speaking from Parliament, Maria said: “I welcomed the appointment of both Chris Grayling as Transport Secretary, and Paul Maynard as Rail Minister just under two months ago, and together they have worked tirelessly with MP’s like myself to deliver results, whilst continuing to acknowledge the difficulties faced by rail users.

“I am delighted to see in writing the Transport Secretaries' plans to bring about a better working relationship between Southern and Network Rail, which for the long term will vastly improve the service that rail users in my constituency receive. The commitment to delivering compensation is also massively welcome, particularly for regular commuters, and I intend to fully support the Department in their endeavour to make this possible.”