England

Southern rail strike suspended as talks resume

Sothern Train Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A five-day strike has been called off halfway through

A strike on the Southern rail network has been suspended to allow fresh talks in the row over the role of conductors, Acas said.

Industrial action on Thursday and Friday has been called off for negotiations to resume.

RMT members began a five-day walk out on Monday but Southern said it was encouraged its offer of talks had been accepted.

Union chief Mick Cash said he had contacted Southern with a way forward.

A spokesman for Southern said: "For our passengers' sake, we truly hope these talks will be productive and bring this long-running dispute to an end."

'Progress made'

The RMT is fighting plans by Southern owner Govia Thameslink (GTR) to turn conductors into "on-board supervisors" from 21 August, with drivers taking over responsibility for opening and closing carriage doors.

Profile of Mick Cash

The rail operator said the strike timetable - which is running 60% of normal services - would run on Thursday.

"Regrettably, this means tomorrow's service will be based upon the present strike timetable but we will do our very best to add services in and extend the hours of operation wherever possible," a spokesman said.

Image caption A revised timetable was brought in last month to cope with disruption

The company said it planned to revert to the revised timetable that had been operating before the strike on Friday.

The revised timetable was brought in last month to cope with ongoing disruption. It saw 341 trains axed per day from the 2,242 weekday services Southern had provided.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Rail workers formed a picket line opposite London Victoria station on Monday

Mr Cash said in a message to members he had heard from Acas that Southern would enter into negotiations "without any preconditions".

He said: "The National Executive Committee (NEC) has had time to consider this matter and have acknowledged that some progress is being made.

"As the company have now agreed to meet with our union officials without the caveat of any preconditions, the NEC has therefore instructed me to inform you and your colleagues that the strike action has now been suspended with immediate effect until further notice."

Mr Cash told members they were instructed to return to work for all shifts starting from 22:00 BST on Wednesday.

Southern rail performance

Figures for 26 June to 23 July 2016

34.8%

Southern Mainline and Coast trains at terminus at least 5 minutes late

12.6%

Total trains late for England and Wales

  • 12% Govia Thameslink Railway services cancelled or significantly late

  • 4.4% Total England and Wales trains cancelled or significantly late

Getty Images

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was "good news for passengers".

He said: "It's important now to leave the union and the train operator to undertake these necessary talks. I hope they reach a positive conclusion as quickly as possible."

Image caption Protesters gathered at London Victoria

Passengers have joined a protest march from London's Victoria station to the Department for Transport (DfT) in central London.

Summer Dean, from Brighton, spokeswoman for the Association of British Commuters said: "We are directing our attentions towards the DfT.

"Obviously we know they are playing a large role in the relationship and situation that is going on here.

"We've now recognised that the DfT needs to play a bigger role. So we're here to ask for fare freezes, we're here to ask for them to meet with us and other passengers and the companies, and for meaningful compensation."

The Campaign for Better Transport and the Association of British Commuters were presenting a 6ft-high letter to rail minister Paul Maynard calling on him to attend a "passenger assembly" to answer questions and arrange better compensation for customers affected by the dispute.

Image caption Campaigners are calling for the government to play a bigger role

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