Face-to-face talks between Southern Rail and RMT break down

Rebecca Smith
RMT picket line at Brighton station in Southern dispute
RMT picket line at Brighton station in Southern dispute (Source: RMT)

Talks aimed at resolving the ongoing dispute over the role of guards on Southern Rail have broken down without agreement, the Rail and Maritime Transport (RMT) union said.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said Southern Rail boss Charles Horton was "refusing to stick by the assurances he gave to the media yesterday that he can 'absolutely' guarantee a second member of staff on all current Southern services with a conductor".

He added that the union was "angry and frustrated that a golden opportunity to resolve this dispute has been wrecked".

Read more: Southern Rail commuters had very British responses to today's train chaos

The latest talks were arranged for this morning after Horton offered to meet with the union in an effort to resolve the situation and halt ongoing industrial action. The RMT agreed to new talks, but said it wasn't prepared to relent on current industrial action.

Horton, chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway which runs Southern, said: "What the RMT is asking us to do if that second person is not available, is to guarantee we’ll cancel the train. That is simply not an option.

"Customers will come first, not the union, and we are not allowing them to maintain the power to control when a train is cancelled.”

Govia also released the full content of the letter Horton sent to Mick Cash yesterday, an excerpt of which reads:

11 October, 2016

You are well aware from our actions of last Friday that we are taking the necessary steps to implement our proposals. It would be beneficial to everyone if we can do so with the agreement of the RMT, but this has to be on the basis of the principles we have made clear to you throughout:

- that those services that currently run with a conductor, and will run DOO(P) [driver only operation (passenger)] in future, will have a safety trained OBS [on-board supervisor] diagrammed on each service, however on occasions the train may leave without the OBS on board.

- that the OBS will have no operational responsibility for the movement of the train.

Workers are taking industrial action against Southern's plans to get rid of conductors and operate driver-only trains. They have walked out for three days, ending at midnight on Thursday, and are threatening further strikes in the coming weeks.

This, along with engineering works caused all sorts of headaches for passengers yesterday - a third of Southern's services were cancelled.

In spite of facing a series of travel delays and disruptions, some passengers have at least been able to keep their sense of humour.

RMT planned strike dates

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

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