Now transport secretary Chris Grayling has waded into Southern rail peace talks

Emma Haslett
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South Coast Commuters Travel In To London On The Second Three-Day Southern Rail Strike
Southern Rail commuters are in for more misery this month (Source: Getty)

The much-maligned RMT union has said it is willing to sit down with transport secretary Chris Grayling to thrash things out over its dispute with Southern rail.

Millions of Southern commuters look set to endure more misery next week as the dispute between unions Aslef and RMT and Govia Thameslink (GTR), the company behind Southern, rumbles on.

This morning the RMT confirmed it had received a letter from Grayling yesterday, and said it will sit down with him.

"I am happy to meet with you so that we can discuss these pressing matters," Mick Cash, the union's general secretary, wrote to Grayling.

Safety report

Yesterday a report by the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) said allowing drivers to operate trains' doors instead of conductors, the issue at the centre of the dispute, is safe.

ORR board member Ian Prosser, who is also the chief inspector of railways, said OOR was "satisfied that with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place, it is a safe method of working".

But both the RMT and Aslef unions hit out, with Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan saying the report did not give driver-only operation a clean bill of health.

"It doesn’t say it is safe, merely that it can be safe," he said.

Olive branch

Earlier this week GTR said it had set out a formal offer to settle the dispute with Aslef. The offer included upgraded CCTV in drivers' cabs, no further extension of driver-operated doors without the union's agreement, and extra job security for drivers.

GTR said it had not received a formal response to the proposals.

"The ball is now in their court," said Charles Horton, the company's chief executive.

Read more: Aslef has announced more Southern rail strike dates in January

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