England

Aslef train drivers accept Southern rail deal

Striking train drivers Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The long-running dispute was over the introduction of driver-only operated, or driver-controlled operated, trains

Drivers from the Aslef union have accepted a deal with Southern rail, bringing to an end an 18-month dispute.

Members voted by 79.1% to accept the resolution which includes a five-year pay increase worth 28.5%.

The dispute over safety came after Southern introduced driver-only operated (DOO), or driver-controlled operated (DCO) trains.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which is locked in the same row, described it as a "shoddy deal".

Members of the RMT, which mostly represents conductors, walked out earlier on a 48-hour strike.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Southern said driver-only operated trains had been operating safely for 32 years

As part of the Aslef deal, Southern must aim to have a second safety-trained person on every DOO train.

It is the third package to be presented to members. The first was thrown out by a majority of 54.1% and the second by 51.8%.

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RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The [Aslef vote] result changes absolutely nothing in terms of RMT's campaign for a safe and accessible railway for all."

He said the deal discriminated against disabled and older people requiring assistance, as there was no guarantee there would be a second member of staff on board trains.

"A new clause in this deal deliberately sets out how where there is no on board supervisor the driver will knowingly have to leave such passengers stranded on trains and stations.

"That is frankly appalling," he said.

Image caption Train drivers on Southern voted overwhelmingly to accept the deal

But Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: "The agreement means we will have a second safety-trained person on every train covered by this agreement except in exceptional circumstances.

"That person will have all the relevant safety competence - including the skills to evacuate passengers in an emergency."

He added the deal was "company specific" and did not have any implications for any other train operating company.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "Our trains will be planned to have a second person on board and this has been the arrangement we have operated over the last year.

"Should, in certain circumstances, a train not have that second person on board then it will still be able to run until a replacement can be provided."

He added: "Driver-only operation has been operating safely for 32 years and now accounts for over a third of the UK rail network."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We are pleased that Aslef drivers on Southern have ended their long-running dispute.

"Passengers expect a reliable and efficient rail service and we will be working hard with the operator to deliver performance improvements."

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