Union and Southern in talks to avert next week’s strike

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Southern and the RMT union have returned to talks in an attempt to avert three days of strike action planned for next week.

Five walkouts have already been held this year over rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to change the role of guards to on-board supervisors, and the RMT has organised 14 more days of strikes in five batches between now and Christmas.

But the RMT confirmed that it will be attending talks and will be tabling a new set of proposals.

This is after GTR set a deadline of Thursday (October 6) for the RMT to accept its latest offer to end the dispute, which it described as ‘fair, clear, and unambiguous’.

But in between Southern launched a ‘major public information campaign’ calling for passengers to ‘strike back’ at the union, a move that immediately backfired with users calling Southern ‘beyond childish’ and a ‘joke’.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said “We welcome the fact that the company have responded to the call for further talks and we will meet them tomorrow with no pre conditions and no arbitrary deadlines.

“RMT will be tabling a fresh set of proposals that address the wide range of issues at the heart of the dispute with the aim of progressing towards a negotiated agreement.”

Today GTR also revealed the level of service it will be able to provide between Tuesday October 11 and Thursday October 13 if the first of five strikes go ahead.

Nearly all 156 stations would have either a train or bus service of some description and many routes will have trains running later in the day than on previous occasions.

Southern expects to run 80 more trains than before and 61 per cent of its normal full timetable.

There will be extra staff at stations to help passengers and arrangements will be in place for passengers to use alternative transport providers.

There will still be a restricted service, with many routes having fewer trains, and on some routes there will be no train service at all but here there will be buses in the peak.

On some routes, a service will be provided through ticket acceptance with other train operators. Passengers are urged to plan ahead.

The changes compared to previous strike dates are:

-Two peak trains between Uckfield and London Bridge in the morning, with two returning in the late afternoon, supplemented by buses connecting Uckfield, Buxted, Crowborough and Eridge with Tunbridge Wells and Haywards Heath (for rail connections to/from London), where previously there were none

-A reduced train service between Dorking and Horsham where previously there was none

-Later services to Redhill

-Later services on the London Bridge to East Grinstead route

-Later services on the Brighton to Eastbourne route

-Buses between Chichester and Havant

-Buses between Hastings and Eastbourne

-Buses between Redhill and Tonbridge – during peak hours only

-Buses all day between Ashford International and Hastings.

Passengers can find out details of these and the rest of the service provision to help plan their journeys at www.southernrailway.com/rmtstrike.

There is also a ‘heat map’ for passengers available on the page.

Angie Doll, Southern passenger services director, said: “We very much hope that our talks tomorrow will be productive and bring an end to this unnecessary dispute.

“But if next week’s strike does go ahead, then we will be doing all we can to provide the best possible levels of service for our passengers, using every resource available to us.”

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