England

Southern strike union Aslef in government talks

Southern Rail trains Image copyright PA
Image caption The dispute over the role of conductors on Southern rail has been ongoing for more than a year

The government says it has held "constructive talks" with the union representing drivers on Southern rail.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he hoped the meeting would "pave the way for the reopening of negotiations" between Aslef and Southern.

In a statement, Aslef described the talks as "proactive", adding: "Further talks are planned with both the company and then the minister."

The union called off three strikes on Southern in August ahead of the talks.

It also lifted a ban on overtime and rest day working.

Strikes on the same dates by members of the RMT union representing guards and drivers were also suspended after both unions were contacted by Mr Grayling inviting them to a meeting, subject to the action over staffing and pay being halted.

The transport secretary is due to meet the RMT on Friday.

'Back to normal'

Following the talks with Aslef, Mr Grayling said: "We're doing everything we can to resolve the situation on Southern and get passengers the high quality rail services that they deserve.

"I was pleased to have a constructive meeting with Aslef today and I hope it paves the way for the reopening of negotiations between the union and Southern so we can sort out this situation and get services back to normal for passengers."

Earlier this month, members of the train drivers' union voted overwhelmingly to take strike action after rejecting a pay offer.

Both unions are embroiled in a long-running dispute with Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) over the decision to replace conductors with "on-board supervisors".

Since January a number of routes have been operating this way, with extra responsibilities - including the closing of train doors - switching to drivers.

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