Southern rail saga: Aslef drivers accept deal to bring long-running row to a close


Southern rail has been beset by strike action in a row over the role of the guard (Source: Getty)

Members of train drivers' union Aslef have agreed a deal to bring an end to a long-running dispute on Southern rail over the role of the guard, which has led to significant disruption from strikes.

Some 79 per cent of those who voted backed the deal, while a fifth were against, on an 87 per cent turnout. The agreement draws the curtains on Aslef's row, now leaving the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union in dispute with the train firm.

Read more: Mass rail strike misery gets underway with walkouts across five networks

Last month, Southern's parent firm Govia Thameslink Railway and the union struck a deal that will see drivers receive a 28.5 per cent pay rise over the next five years.

The union's executive committee had recommended members accept the proposal, though previous attempts to resolve the row had gone awry after being rejected by members.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said:

We are pleased with a resolution which, we believe, works for the staff, and the company, and we now look forward to working with Southern rail to restore good industrial relations and deliver the service passengers in the region deserve.

Meanwhile, Nick Brown, chief operating officer at Southern's parent firm, Govia Thameslink Railway, said:

This dispute has been difficult for our passengers in particular and we are pleased that we can now move ahead and deliver stability by finally concluding this deal with Aslef.

Our trains will be planned to have a second person on board and this has been the arrangement we have operated over the last year. More on-train staff are on more trains with more passengers than ever before. The on-board service concept has been welcomed by our passengers across the board.

Should, in certain circumstances, a train not have that second person on board then it will still be able to run until a replacement can be provided. 

In April, Aslef members rejected a second deal to bring the dispute to a close, with 51.8 per cent voting to reject the deal, from a 75.4 per cent turnout.

At the time, Aslef's general secretary, said the union would seek further talks with Southern in an effort to deliver a resolution to the row "in line with the expectations of our members". 

That came after a previous agreement was reached in February, but hope was scuppered with Aslef members turning down the proposed deal then too.

The RMT union remains in dispute with Southern rail, with strike action across the network today and tomorrow in the bitter row over the role of the guard. Four other train companies are embroiled in separate disputes with the union too.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, said today's decision "leaves the RMT leadership completely isolated".

He added: "The travelling public will not thank them for another round of disruptive and unnecessary strike action. The RMT should work together with rail companies to deliver the industry's plan to improve services for passengers, communities, the country and their members."

Read more: DfT mulls split of Southern rail owner Govia Thameslink Railway