RMT union in bid to end Southern rail dispute

Strike Image copyright EPA
Image caption The RMT has walked out repeatedly in the long-running dispute

Union leaders have held talks with MPs over a plan they claim could end the long-running row on Southern rail.

The company has been in dispute for more than a year with the RMT over changes to guards' roles on trains.

RMT conductors saw the changes as a ploy to phase out a second person on trains. It has now proposed a six-month trial with two staff guaranteed on all affected services.

But Southern said what the RMT wanted was "a guarantee to cancel trains".

Under the changes to guards' roles, which were also opposed by the Aslef train drivers' union, responsibility for opening and closing doors passes to the driver rather than the conductor.

The practice is called driver-only-operation (DOO).

Southern rail strike: What's it about?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The union said it hoped the company would agree to the "sensible proposal"

RMT leaders have set out an "accessibility guarantee" plan, which would ensure a driver and an on-board supervisor staff all trains.

This would mean disabled, elderly and vulnerable passengers would be provided with guaranteed assistance from on-board staff on all services without the need to book in advance, the union said.

Fresh strike planned

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "We are hoping the company will reconsider our proposal for a trial six-month period of an accessibility guarantee.

"We would hope that they would agree to this sensible proposal as the Association of Train Operating Companies consultant's report has said train companies should guarantee a second person to comply with their legal obligations."

But a spokesman for Southern said: "The guarantee the RMT wants is a guarantee to cancel trains. We want to put the passenger first and keep trains running.

"Driver-controlled operation is safe and provision for those who need assistance has not deteriorated while, at the same time, service levels have steadily improved."

RMT members on Southern will stage a fresh strike next Monday, while Aslef has banned overtime.

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