Southern Rail crisis talks end without agreement to stop strikes

Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WirePicture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Talks aimed at resolving the Southern Rail dispute have ended without agreement.

Leaders of the train drivers’ union Aslef met with the company for a second day under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas to try to break a deadlocked row over driver-only trains.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink Railway, said: ‘We’re deeply disappointed, as our passengers will be, that Aslef has been unable to accept our proposals and we cannot find a way forward to end this dispute with the drivers’ union at this stage.

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‘We’re sincerely sorry that commuters’ work and family lives are being punished with this unjustified and unprecedented industrial action.

‘The unions must stop the pain and suffering blighting passengers and commerce.

‘We will continue with our plans to modernise our railway and the services we offer customers. We urge the union to think again and work with us and move forward together. Our door remains open.’

Drivers will go ahead with a 24-hour strike tomorrow.

Mr Brown said the company had put a ‘practical offer’ on the table for the union to consider with the aim of getting tomorrow’s strike called off.

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He added: ‘Today we explored a number of initiatives with them. We’re pleased that the union did acknowledge to us today they welcomed our attempts to find solutions.

‘But, regrettably, they simply will not shift from their entrenched position and rigid opposition to our modernisation plans. Once again, Aslef want to go back and not look forward.

‘Passengers and businesses are being held to ransom by the unions’ wholly unjustified and unnecessary industrial action.

‘The real victims of these strikes are passengers who simply want to receive the train service they deserve to get them to work and home again.

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‘Aslef claims drivers closing doors is inherently unsafe. The Office of Rail and Road and the Rail Safety & Standards Board have stated that drivers closing doors is a safe mode of operation.

‘For 30 years trains have been running up and down the country’s railways this way and today over a third of the national train network runs this way.

‘So the public will be simply perplexed that the union is maintaining such an entrenched position given drivers being fully in charge of the train is so commonplace today.’

Southern’s services were disrupted today because of an overtime ban by drivers, but none of the company’s trains will run tomorrow because of the strike.