Aslef train drivers have now rejected a second Southern rail deal to bring long-running dispute to a close

Rebecca Smith
Both Aslef and the RMT had been in dispute with Southern rail over changes to the role of the guard
Both Aslef and the RMT had been in dispute with Southern rail over changes to the role of the guard (Source: Getty)

Second time lucky? Not so much.

Aslef train drivers have rejected the deal agreed by their union and Southern rail's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to bring a long-running dispute over the role of the guard to an end.

Read more: Complaints about Southern rail owner surge over 340 per cent in a year

The deal had been put to a members' referendum last month, meaning that if drivers gave it the green light, the dispute would officially be over. But, members of the union have put the brakes on, with 51.8 per cent voting to reject the deal, from a 75.4 per cent turnout.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers’ union, said: "We understand and support the decision arrived at in a democratic vote by our drivers and will now seek new talks with the company and work to deliver a resolution to this dispute in line with the expectations of our members."

"It's a hugely disappointing outcome for our passengers, particularly as the agreement carried the full support and recommendation of the Aslef leadership," said Andy Bindon, director at GTR. "We have shown a willingness and desire to find a solution to their dispute and we will now, once again, sit down with the union, understand the issues which led to this regrettable decision by the drivers and try and find a way forward to resolving it."

Southern rail passengers have suffered months of disruption as industrial action by Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has caused chaos on the network for months. Action started in April last year, with Aslef joining at the end of 2016.

The RMT remains locked in a stand-off with Southern, though the train operator has said the RMT's strikes are becoming less effective and the two meet for talks tomorrow in an effort to end that dispute.

The union moved the date of a strike that was planned for tomorrow to Saturday 8 April - the same day as the Grand National, with strike action also planned on Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North.

Read more: Southern rail and Aslef will hold fresh talks after drivers rejected deal

The RMT said today's news reflects "the continuing and deep seated concern amongst drivers and the wider workforce" over so-called driver-only operation "and the safety impact".

General secretary Mick Cash said: "Southern rail cannot jam their heads in the sand any longer. We are in talks with the company tomorrow and we now expect the fundamental issues at the heart of our guards' and drivers' disputes to be taken seriously."

The train operator and Aslef announced on 15 March they had agreed a new deal to settle their dispute, after an earlier agreement was scuppered when rejected by Aslef train drivers in a referendum.

Read more: The moment we've all been waiting for: Southern and Aslef make a deal

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