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Southern offer to hold fresh talks in bid to end rail dispute

Southern Railway has offered to hold fresh talks aimed at resolving the bitter dispute over the role of conductors.

Charles Horton, the chief executive of Southern's owners, Govia Thameslink Railway, has written to the leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union saying he will meet him tomorrow.

The move followed disruption to services caused by a strike by union members which is due to continue until midnight on Thursday.

Mr Horton urged the union to call off this week's strike and allow "productive" talks to take place.

He told RMT general secretary Mick Cash: "I'm prepared to free my diary from tomorrow morning onwards to meet and to show your serious intent, I would like the RMT to call off the rest of the strike action planned for this week.

"Everyone - the travelling public, our staff and the regional economy - have faced months of misery and disruption, and again today. We have to end this dispute now and move forward."

Mr Horton said the company was pressing ahead with changing the role of conductors to on board superviser, with responsibility for closing train doors switching to drivers.

He said: "It would be beneficial to everyone if we can do so with the agreement of the RMT, but this has to be on the basis of the principles we have made clear to them throughout.

"Our proposals remain unchanged from 8 August when we set out our full, fair and comprehensive 8-point offer, on top of previous assurances made to you.

"These were supplemented by the offer of a lump sum payment on the 3 October, which the RMT rejected last week.

"Let's hope sense prevails and we can shake hands on a deal."

Mr Cash said: "RMT is pleased that GTR have responded positively to the union's call for talks."

The union said Mr Horton has made it clear the company is prepared to "guarantee" a second member of staff on every current Southern service with a conductor on board, the issue at the heart of the dispute.

"That gives us scope to move on and to discuss the detail of the role of that guaranteed second person and to move towards a negotiated settlement to this dispute.

"This is a golden opportunity to make a breakthrough and RMT will be at the talks tomorrow."

The strike is continuing despite tonight's development.

Picket lines will again be mounted outside stations tomorrow, including London Victoria and Brighton.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: "It is disappointing that passengers once again face needless and unjustified strike action by the RMT, after the union advised its members to accept the new roles being offered by the operator.

"The union leaders have continually rejected a deal that protects jobs and ensures that on-board staff will carry on delivering safe, accessible and more reliable rail services. I call on RMT to put passengers first and stop this damaging action."


From Belfast Telegraph