London transport chair calls for TfL intervention in Southern Rail dispute as talks continue to break down

London’s Transport Committee chair has slammed both sides of the Southern Rail dispute and is calling for TfL to intervene.

Caroline Pidgeon, the only Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, said the dispute over conductor-free trains has reached a point where it does not matter what assurances Southern offer because the RMT union is now ‘striking for the sake of it’.

“I am hugely concerned about the additional stress this is having on London,” she said.

“You see the stress on passengers’ faces and it’s not good enough.”

She is urging TfL to take over the London operations for the franchise.

In other transport matters Ms Pidgeon is feeling more positive about Crossrail’s construction, which she thinks will help Londoners use the capital’s existing transport network more effectively.

However the anti-third Heathrow runway campaigner also criticised the Government for delaying of the decision on the airport’s £8.6bn expansion.

She said: “I have no idea what the Government are doing and I don’t think they know quite frankly.”

She reiterated her opposition to the expansion plans, stating that they would cause ‘so much blight over our homes and areas’.

Ms Pidgeon also questioned the need to expand Gatwick, which is often tipped as a cheaper and less disruptive alternative to a third runway at Heathrow.

“I don’t think we need to expand at all,” she said. “I have a view that we can use our airports in a much smarter way.”

Worries over Heathrow’s expansion, particularly in south west London, have led to an increase in the Liberal Democrats’ membership.

Ms Pidgeon cited swings in south west London council by-elections as a sign that a Liberal Democrat fight back is on the cards.

Last month Liberal Democrat Sutton Council candidate Chris Williams held onto his Carshalton seat with a 5.1% swing.

However, the Conservative candidate Melissa Pearce came second with an 11.6% vote increase.

Over 15,000 people have joined the Liberal Democrats since June’s EU referendum but with a quarter of those living in London the party still has some way to go to increase its 8.1% national polling average.

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