Fresh talks called to solve Southern rail dispute

Southern bosses and rail union leaders are due to meet in the next week in an attempt to end a long-running dispute over driver-only trains.

Southern train
Southern train

Representatives from both ASLEF and the RMT called off strike action planned for this week to take up an offer of talks made by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway has been embroiled in a protracted dispute with staff over changes across the Southern network which make drivers responsible for opening and closing train doors.

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Train drivers’ union ASLEF met GTR bosses last Tuesday (July 25) and are due to reconvene talks tomorrow (Tuesday August 1), while the RMT has a meeting scheduled for next Monday (August 7).

Unions have raised concerns about a potential loss of a second safety-critical member of staff aboard Southern trains as guards are being transferred to the role of on-board supervisor.

Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “RMT has a clear formula for resolving this dispute.

“We have laid that formula out to the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, and we will be entering the talks next week with a positive set of proposals that we believe can bring sixteen months of industrial action to an end.

“We have given a clear undertaking to the Secretary of State that we will report back to him on the progress of this fresh round of talks.

“We now have an opportunity for genuine and meaningful talks to take place and RMT has committed to that process after well over a year of false starts.

The union fully believes that the fare-paying passengers want a fresh start and a new approach that puts safety and access first and that is why we took up the opportunity of a meeting with Chris Grayling to get that process moving.

“The union would have preferred an earlier date for the meeting as we believe that the situation is urgent but we will be in the room with the company next Monday afternoon looking to map out a way forward.”

Last week spokesman for ASLEF said: “ASLEF and GTR Southern had constructive talks today. We have agreed to reconvene next Tuesday 1 August to discuss: sign off on terms and conditions; DOO; and the structure of future pay talks.”