Southern rail dispute talks end with no deal

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The drivers’ strike stopped all Southern services earlier this week and passengers were told not to travel

Talks aimed at stopping industrial action on the Southern rail network have ended with no deal, the rail operator has said.

Aslef has been in negotiation with the rail company at conciliation service Acas but talks ended on Thursday.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink (GTR) Southern’s parent company, said Aslef had been unable to accept their proposals.

Aslef said talks had continued but without progress.

A spokeswoman for the union said Aslef was open to resuming talks next week although nothing had been set up yet.

And Aslef later issued an official statement which said: “Talks between Aslef and GTR continued at Acas today but no progress was made. Aslef’s door remains open for future talks.”

Media captionAngry passengers staged a protest on Thursday night

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A two-day walk out by train drivers ended at midnight

Mr Brown 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.

“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.”

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Aslef has said a further strike planned for Friday will go ahead

Both Aslef and the RMT union are in dispute with GTR over changes to guards’ roles on driver-only operated (DOO) trains.

The RMT fears job cuts and has raised safety concerns, and Aslef has described DOO as “inherently unsafe”.

But Mr Brown said the company would continue with its plans to modernise the railway.

He said: “We urge the union to think again and work with us and move forward together. Our door remains open.”

Strike to go ahead

The rail chief also said the company had put a “practical offer” on the table and he said the union had welcomed its attempts to find solutions.

But he added: “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.”

Referring to Aslef claims that DOO is unsafe, he said both the Office of Rail and Road and the Rail Safety Standards Board had stated that drivers closing doors is a safe mode of operation.

A spokesman for Acas said: “Acas conciliation talks have concluded. Our services remain available.”

‘Offer of talks’

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he was “deeply disappointed”.

He said: “I have reaffirmed my offer for talks with the unions if they call off strike action, but they have failed to come to the table without pre-conditions.”

He said no jobs were being lost and no pay was being cut, but the unions were in dispute over who presses the button to close the train doors.

Mr Grayling said: “Driver-only operated services have been safely used across the rail network for 30 years and the rail regulator has confirmed it is safe.”

Media captionAngry passengers staged a protest on Thursday night

On Thursday evening, passengers gathered at London Victoria station and then marched to the Department for Transport where they delivered a toy train set and called on Mr Grayling to resign.

Brighton commuter Patrick Olszowski said Mr Grayling was trying to break the unions and “leaving the unions and the privatised rail companies to duke it out with one another”.

The crowd demanded immediate government intervention in the long-running dispute and an independent inquiry into what they described as the “collapse of Southern rail”.

The DfT has told the BBC the dispute is between Southern and the unions and “not something the government is involved in”.

Drivers will go ahead with a 24-hour strike on Friday.

A two-day strike by train drivers on Tuesday and Wednesday brought all Southern services to a halt and left services severely disrupted on Thursday.

Industrial action is also due to continue next week with a 48-hour strike by conductors.

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Further stoppages are planned by both unions

Planned Southern strike dates

00:01 Friday 16 December to 23:59: Friday 16 December (Aslef and RMT drivers’ strike)

00:01 Monday 19 December to 23:59 Tuesday 20 December (RMT conductors’ strike)

00:01 Saturday 31 December to 23:59 Monday 2 January (RMT conductors’ strike)

00:01 Monday 9 January to 23:59: Saturday 14 January (Aslef and RMT drivers’ strike)