Southern rail strikes off pending government-union talks

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Southern Rail trainsImage copyright PA
Image caption The dispute has been ongoing for more than a year

Planned strikes by Southern rail guards and drivers have been suspended ahead of talks with the transport secretary.

Industrial action called for Tuesday 1, Wednesday 2, and Friday 4 August will not now go ahead.

Aslef and the RMT unions were contacted by Chris Grayling inviting them to a meeting, subject to the action over staffing and pay being halted.

Aslef said an overtime ban by its drivers, who have rejected a pay offer, is also suspended.

Both unions are embroiled in a long-running dispute with Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) over plans to replace conductors with “on-board supervisors”.

Under the plan, extra responsibilities including the closing of train doors would switch to drivers.

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The offer of government talks follows a meeting between Eastbourne Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd and the unions on Tuesday.

Both unions had urged Mr Grayling to negotiate directly with them to end the dispute.

In a statement on Wednesday, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Aslef is committed to resolving matters as soon as possible while safeguarding the interests of our members, and the safety of passengers, particularly those with disabilities.

“We hope talks can start as soon as possible and, ideally, within the week.”

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