Rebuffed by unions: The government did offer to get involved in the Southern dispute last week

Oliver Gill
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The transport minister's letter has turned up the heat on the unions (Source: Getty)
he trade unions at the centre of the Southern rail dispute refused to respond to approaches from the transport minister to avert this week's industrial action.

Economics minister Simon Kirby today received a letter from Chris Grayling revealing the reticence by the unions to get round the table and the threats by drivers union Aslef for 10 years of pain on the railways.

Read more: Southern begs rail users to not travel tomorrow

When I met the general secretary of Aslef soon after my appointment, with virtually his first breath he promised me '10 years of industrial action'

Grayling also gave some insight as to why he has kept out of the debacle thus far: "I have therefore believed it better to avoid direct ministerial involvement in negotiations during the autumn, as my involvement would make the issue even more political than it is."

The trade unions have repeatedly asked for a sit-down with the transport minister over the second half of 2016, as they believe the government is who they should be negotiating with to solve the long-running and bitter spat over which members of staff operate the doors on trains.

And Grayling revealed he did try and get involved last week, following the unions' appearance on BBC's Today programme.

Read more: Southern Rail strikes: Everything you need to know

However, after writing to them and offering to get round the table if they called off their industrial action, Grayling said the unions fell silent and failed to respond.

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