Southern rail pledges to run full service next week as strike talks get underway

Rebecca Smith
Southern has agreed to fresh talks at the TUC
Southern has agreed to fresh talks at the TUC (Source: Getty)

Southern rail has pledged to run its full service from next Tuesday, as talks aimed at finally resolving the dispute between train drivers' union Aslef and Southern rail kick off today.

But the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union won't be involved.

The talks, to be chaired by Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O'Grady and Abellio's HR director Andy Meadows, were agreed after Aslef offered to suspend strike action (planned for 24, 25 and 27 January) in return for fresh talks.

As a result, Southern said it will run a full service from Tuesday next week.

Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, said the best way forward was for "all parties to engage in meaningful talks - without preconditions" to find a way forward.

Read more: Will the Southern strikes finally be over? Union suspends action

The union has also suspended its overtime ban for the time being, which was causing further disruption on non-strike days.

The boss of Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Charles Horton said it was "an important and significant development" for both the travelling public and the regional economy.

There have been months of disruption on the network as industrial action by Aslef and the RMT, in a row over the role of conductors on so-called driver-only operated trains, has caused ongoing travel problems for long-suffering passengers.

An RMT spokesperson said the union had written to the TUC requesting to be involved in "the same process over the current Southern guards dispute that has been agreed with our sister union". Until, it was offered that, the RMT said its action - set for Monday 23 January - remains on.

Read more: Southern rail commuters offered a Christmas windfall

It mostly represents conductors, while Aslef represents the majority of drivers involved.

Southern said that for Monday's strike, it will be able to run over 70 per cent of its trains; 10 per cent more of its normal timetable than it has been able to operate on previous conductor strike days.

The following routes - previously suspended on an RMT conductor strike day - will now operate on Monday:

  • Eastbourne – Hastings
  • Chichester – Portsmouth and Southampton
  • Lewes – Haywards Heath
  • Coastway stations (including Bognor, Littlehampton, Eastbourne, Worthing and Hastings) will regain a direct service to London

When talks were held in December, RMT general secretary Mick Cash was angry over talks going on without his union's presence.

Southern said Aslef, representing nearly 1,000 drivers, had been invited by conciliation service Acas for talks, while the RMT, representing 12 drivers, weren't involved in the discussions.

The train operator has also said it was "just finalising arrangements" of the compensation scheme set out in December for season-ticket holders.

They will be able to claim a refund for the equivalent of one month's travel. Southern said it will be in touch with passengers shortly with details on how they can claim it back.

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