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'Severe disruption' for Southern passengers during Thursday pause in rail strike

Southern Railway services will be "severely disrupted" tomorrow even though drivers will not be on strike, and talks to end their dispute continue, the company announced.

Officials met with leaders of the drivers' union Aslef at the conciliation service Acas to try to break the deadlocked row over driver-only trains.

Drivers were on strike for a second day today and are due to walk out again on Friday if the dispute is not resolved.

Passengers were warned that services will be hit tomorrow even though the strike ends at midnight.

Southern Passenger Services Director Angie Doll said: "We will be working hard to run as many services as possible tomorrow, but regrettably I have to warn passengers that services will be severely impacted, with reductions and cancellations across all routes.

"With today's strike ending at midnight, despite our best efforts, some trains and crew will still not be in position for tomorrow's service; and the overtime ban will continue to have a serious impact."

Southern urged passengers to check its website before travelling tomorrow.

All of Southern's 2,242 weekday services were cancelled again today, causing more misery for its 300,000 passengers.

The leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said he had been barred from taking part in the Acas talks.

Mick Cash arrived at the conciliation service on Wednesday morning, alongside the leader of the drivers' union Aslef, Mick Whelan, but left shortly afterwards.

Mr Cash said: "Southern Rail were fully aware last night that I would be attending the talks this morning at Acas alongside our Aslef colleagues.

"This morning, on arrival for the talks, I was told that I would not allowed to take part by representatives from the company.

"RMT is furious at the complete contempt that has been shown to us by Southern Rail this morning which leaves us in a state of limbo when we should all be around the table thrashing out the issues that have led to the current action.

"Our members were expecting discussions to take place today and instead we have had the door slammed in our faces. That is no way to rebuild the confidence of the workforce in the Southern management and the talks process and it is no way to reach a solution which is what the public are crying out for."

Southern Railway said the RMT only represented 12 drivers, as opposed to 1,000 in Aslef.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, Southern's parent company, said: "We hope today's talks with the Aslef leadership are productive. I have spoken with the general secretary of the RMT this morning and informed him we'd be happy to meet him at Acas later today to talk about any new proposals he has to try and end the conductors' dispute.

"And I also asked him to call off their programme of strikes planned for Christmas and New Year."

The RMT is embroiled in a separate dispute over changes to the role of guards which has led to a series of strikes in recent months.

The guards are due to stage another 48-hour walkout next week, and again over the New Year.

Wednesday's talks were over the driver-only trains dispute rather than the guards' row.

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