MPs welcome deal for Southern train drivers

A Southern Rail train
A Southern Rail train

MPs from the 1066 area have welcomed the decision by Southern train drivers to accept a deal over pay, terms and conditions, and driver-only operation.

Last year ASLEF joined the RMT union’s industrial dispute over the further extension of DOO on the Southern network by Govia Thameslink Railway.

The changes make drivers responsible for opening and closing train doors, with guards transferred to the role of on-board supervisor.

The last two deals negotiated by ASLEF’s leadership have been rejected by members, but a third deal has been approved by 79.1 per cent in favour, on a turnout of 87.1 per cent.

Amber Rudd, Hastings and Rye MP, said: “I am pleased that the dispute with ASLEF has finally come to an end.

“I support there being a second member of staff on-board trains to assist customers and I welcome the agreement which has been reached between the union and GTR. Passengers and local businesses have suffered significant disruption as a result of strikes.

“I now hope that the RMT union will also reach an agreement which will allow modern and reliable services to be delivered for our communities which rely on them.”

The settlement, which lasts until 2021, applies only to train drivers belonging to ASLEF.

A settlement has yet to be reached with the RMT union, which represents on-board supervisors and guards, with a two-day walkout held this week.

The union has raised concerns over safety and access.

Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, added: “As a daily commuter myself, I am well aware how difficult life has been for residents when the drivers have taken industrial action.

“I am pleased that a deal has been reached and I am now calling for the RMT union to do likewise. Whilst 90% of services run even when the RMT strike, the headlines cause uncertainty to businesses in a tourist area such as ours.

“There are now more second crew members employed than at the start of this dispute. It is time for everyone to put aside their past differences and start repairing the damage which this action has caused for so many of our constituents.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: “Our members on Southern, after careful consideration, and long and hard negotiations, have voted to accept this resolution to our industrial dispute with the company.

“We are pleased with a resolution which, we believe, works for the staff, and the company, and we now look forward to working with Southern Rail to restore good industrial relations and deliver the service passengers in the region deserve.”

He added: “The agreement means we will have a second safety-trained person on every train covered by this agreement except in exceptional circumstances.

“That person will have all the relevant safety competence – including the skills to evacuate passengers in an emergency.

“The agreement also confirms the terms and conditions under which our members at Southern are employed.

“And the agreement gives our drivers the security of a five-year pay deal, which covers the October 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 pay settlements, through to the end of the franchise.”

Nick Brown, chief operating officer at GTR, said: “This dispute has been difficult for our passengers in particular and we are pleased that we can now move ahead and deliver stability by finally concluding this deal with ASLEF.

“Our trains will be planned to have a second person on board and this has been the arrangement we have operated over the last year.

“More on-train staff are on more trains with more passengers than ever before. The on-board service concept has been welcomed by our passengers across the board.

“Should, in certain circumstances, a train not have that second person on board then it will still be able to run until a replacement can be provided. Avoiding cancellations is key to us delivering a resilient and reliable service across the busiest and most congested part of the UK rail network.

“Driver only operation has been operating safely for 32 years and now accounts for over a third of the UK rail network.”