England

Aslef Southern rail deal 'old one in new envelope' says RMT union

Football supporters boarding a Southern service Image copyright PA
Image caption Passengers have faced delays, overcrowding and cancellations while the dispute has raged

A deal between Southern rail and Aslef to end the dispute over driver-only operated trains is "the old deal in a new envelope", the RMT has claimed.

Details of the revised deal, which was announced on Wednesday, reveal a commitment to upgrade cameras and increase safety training.

Circumstances in which trains could run with only a driver on board have also been reduced from eight to five.

Mick Cash, leader of the RMT, said Aslef members were being "hoodwinked".

The latest offer comes after a previous agreement between Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and the drivers' union was rejected in February.

It is being put to members in a ballot, with the result expected on 3 April, with union leaders recommending acceptance after saying that drivers' concerns have been met.

Image copyright BBC source
Image caption Circumstances in which trains could run with only a driver have been reduced from eight to five

Analysis: Ben Weisz, BBC Sussex political reporter

I've seen a copy of the deal announced on Wednesday between train drivers' union Aslef and Govia Thameslink, which owns the Southern franchise.

The differences between this one and the deal that got rejected are subtle, but potentially significant.

There are slightly fewer circumstances a train could be sent off without an onboard supervisor (OBS).

Upgrades to CCTV cameras (used to dispatch a train by the driver) would be rolled out a year earlier.

And all new OBSs would be given PTS training - safety training that enables them to walk on the track.

Will this wash with drivers? Does it answer their safety concerns?

Remember - the margin was pretty close last time, so not too many minds need to change for a deal to stick.

In any case, we'll see on 3 April, when their ballot delivers its results.


The RMT union, which mostly represents guards who have been taking their own strike action over the same issue, said its dispute "remains on", and it was seeking urgent talks with the company and the government.

Mr Cash said the new deal with Aslef still meant that drivers and passengers had "lost the cast-iron guarantee they once had of a guard on the train which means they will now be more exposed and left vulnerable when something goes wrong".

"Disabled passengers will be seriously disadvantaged as access to train services ‎is compromised," he added.

"The fact is that GTR have deliberately done this deal behind the backs of guards and their union."

RMT members on Southern have taken 30 days of strike action over the dispute, which began last April.

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