Talks aimed at resolving Southern rail strike to be hosted by Acas

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Talks aimed at resolving the Southern Railway drivers' dispute will be held at the conciliation service Acas today as thousands of commuters remain stranded for another day.

The move followed informal discussions on Tuesday on the first day of a 48-hour walkout by members of Aslef, which halted all the company's services.

The strike is still set to go ahead, as well as another 24-hour stoppage planned on Friday, in a long running row over driver-only trains. 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling refused to rule out taking action to prevent future stoppages like the one which brought all Southern Railway services to a halt.

Aslef, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union and Southern had been coming under increasing pressure to settle bitter disputes over driver-only trains and changes to the role of guards.

Some of Southern's 300,000 passengers told of the nightmare they have faced for months because of disruption to services.

Normally-busy railway stations have been deserted as passengers worked from home, took the day off or attempted to drive.

All of Southern's 2,242 weekday services were cancelled, causing the worst disruption for more than 20 years.

Commuters are planning a protest outside the Department for Transport on Thursday evening.

Mr Grayling continued to blame the unions for the months of disruption to Southern services and urged them to sit down with the company to resolve the long-running disputes.

But Aslef and the RMT attacked the Government, saying ministers had been preventing Southern from negotiating properly.

Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern's owners, Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "We reached out to Aslef as we said we would and now welcome the opportunity to discuss a way forward with them.

"The travelling public are suffering misery and inconvenience and the impact on the regional economy is significant.

"We assure everyone we are committed to trying to find a solution to the union's dispute."