(Adds PM comments, background, share price)
By Sarah Young
LONDON Dec 14 British Prime Minister Theresa
May condemned as "appalling" a rail strike that left hundreds of
thousands of London commuters facing a second day of travel
chaos on Wednesday.
Speaking in parliament, she urged the two sides to find a
solution to avoid prolonging Britain's worst rail disruption for
Passengers trying to get to London from the southeast
struggled to get to work as drivers on Southern Rail - part of
the country's biggest rail franchise - continued a 48-hour
stoppage over a dispute about whose job it should be to open and
close the train doors.
May called for an end to the action as Southern and the
drivers' union Aslef met for talks at the conciliation service
Acas before more stoppages planned for Friday and in January.
"This is an appalling strike," she said. "We've seen
driver-only operated trains on rail networks in the UK for
decades. I hope that the talks at Acas are going to lead to an
end to this strike."
"There is only one body responsible for the current strike,
that is Aslef," she added.
Wednesday's talks have not yet involved the other main rail
union, the RMT, which represents conductors, and is also
involved in the dispute. It is planning strikes on the Southern
network next week.
Southern, run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), a joint
venture owned by London-listed Go-Ahead and France's
Keolis, told passengers not to try to travel during the strike.
Commentators said this week's strikes would have the biggest
impact since action by signal workers in the mid-1990s.
They follow a series of stoppages on Southern this year
which have caused misery for commuters. Some of them say they
have even lost their jobs because they could not get to work on
Southern said in a statement it hoped the talks with Aslef
would be productive, and added that it had asked to speak to the
RMT at Acas later on Wednesday, to try to end the dispute.
Parent company Go-Ahead, which has apologised for the
troubles on Southern, is due to provide investors with a trading
update on Thursday.
The strike action on Southern is not a major concern for
Go-Ahead investors due to the terms of the contract between the
rail operator and the government which mean the latter must take
the hit for revenues lost to strike action.
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Stephen