The RMT union wants fresh meetings with a raft of train firms spanning Greater Anglia to Southern rail to avoid UK-wide strikes

 
Rebecca Smith
The RMT has been embroiled in a long-running row with Southern rail
The RMT has been embroiled in a long-running row with Southern rail (Source: Getty)

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is seeking "urgent talks" with a raft of train companies it is rowing with over so-called driver only operation (DOO).

The union met transport secretary Chris Grayling for talks about Southern rail last week to try and make some progress after a year-long row beset with industrial action has caused misery for passengers.

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Current disputes are also still unresolved on Northern and Merseyrail, with another declared on Greater Anglia and a ballot for strike action underway. The RMT has also given South West Trains a deadline to provide assurances on the future of the role of the guard, with the escalating row on track to lead to spreading strike action.

“Regarding the driver only operation disputes we had a full and frank discussion on our concerns and the secretary of state has now had an opportunity to get a clear understanding of RMT's position on Southern rail and the broader issue of how the extension of DOO impacts nationally on other rail franchises," said RMT's general secretary Mick Cash.

In respect of the specifics of the Southern dispute the secretary of state has agreed to examine our proposals that we had previously put to Southern which I have sent over to him. He also agreed to meet again if necessary.

Regarding DOO on other companies the secretary of state claimed that he was not sitting on companies telling them what to do and we are therefore writing to all of the relevant companies seeking urgent discussions.

The union has been vocally against the development of driver-only operation, saying it will be unsafe.

Richard Dean, train service delivery director at Greater Anglia, said the company remained available for talks with the union.

He said:

We have conductors on our Intercity service between Norwich and London Liverpool Street and on our rural routes across East Anglia. They are highly valued colleagues and we have no plans to remove them from our trains. In fact, we have a new conductors training course starting in August.

We hold regular meetings with the unions which represent our colleagues. These meetings will continue as we remain available for talks to resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s MD, said: "We understand that the RMT has written to train operators where there are disputes or potential disputes. Merseyrail has not received any written request from the RMT.

"Merseyrail has never closed the door on negotiating a settlement to this dispute and we await any such request from the RMT."

Read more: There's going to be even more summer strike action on Southern rail

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