Talks to avert Southern rail strikes end without agreement

Southern train Image copyright PA
Image caption Staff shortages and industrial action have caused months of disruption on the Southern network

Talks aimed at averting a series of strikes on the Southern rail network have ended without agreement.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the train operator had rejected a fresh set of proposals that could have resolved the dispute.

The first walkout is due to start next week, threatening fresh disruption to Southern's services.

Parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said it would press ahead with plans to modernise Southern.

It said it would deliver 12 weeks' notice to conductors on Friday, terminating their contracts from 31 December, and they would be offered new contracts as on-board supervisors to start on 1 January.

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Media captionRMT general secretary Mick Cash said changes to the role of guards were unacceptable

GTR set a deadline of noon for the union to accept changes to the role of guards and its introduction of Driver Only Operation.

The union said it had proposed a transition period which would allow the current safety duties of guards to be retained.

Strike dates announced by the RMT:

  • 00:01 Tuesday 11 October to 23:59 Thursday 13 October
  • 00:01 Tuesday 18 October to 23:59 Thursday 20 October
  • 00:01 Thursday 3 November to 23:59 Saturday 5 November
  • 00:01 Tuesday 22 November to 23:59 Wednesday 23 November
  • 00:01 Tuesday 6 December to 23:59 Thursday 8 December

"The union is angry and disappointed that a fresh set of proposals put forward that address both our issues and the company agenda have been rejected out of hand with barely a cursory glance," said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.

"The travelling public will be rightly angry that the company have kicked back in our faces a chance to resolve this long-running dispute."

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Media captionAngie Doll, Southern's passenger services director, said its aim was to modernise the railway

GTR said it was deeply disappointed.

"The RMT counter-proposal didn't come anywhere near our goals of modernising our train service for the benefit of passengers," said CEO Charles Horton.

"What the RMT want to do is retain their power and control by insisting that our trains cannot run under any circumstances without a conductor on board, leading to more delays and cancellations.

"I am incredibly sorry about the months of misery our passengers have suffered."

Southern said nearly all 156 stations would have either a train or bus service of some kind on the strike days of 11, 12 and 13 October.

It said it expected to run 61% of its normal, full, timetable.

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