Crunch talks due to avert rail and Tube strikes


Crucial talks will be held today in a bid to avert fresh strikes by rail and Tube workers in separate disputes over staffing and jobs.

Officials from the train drivers' union Aslef will meet bosses from Southern Railway under the joint chairmanship of TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady and Andy Meadows, HR director of rail firm Abellio.

Three days of strikes scheduled for next week have been suspended, while an overtime ban ended at midnight on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers were hit by three days of strikes last week and have endured months of disruption because of industrial action, staff shortages and other issues.

The talks offer a glimmer of hope of breaking the deadlocked row over driver-only trains.

Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern's owner, Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "We've always made clear our willingness to engage in meaningful talks with Aslef to find a route forward to end their dispute.

"So, together with our passengers and businesses, we warmly welcome their decision to suspend next week's planned industrial action.

"This is an important and significant development for the travelling public and the regional economy, and our focus and efforts now will be on productive talks with the union and trying to find a solution and a way forward."

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: "Aslef believes that the best way to resolve the dispute at Southern is for all parties to engage in meaningful talks, without preconditions, aimed at finding an agreed way forward."

Meanwhile, talks aimed at heading off more strikes on London Underground over jobs and ticket office closures will resume.

Officials from the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) will meet with LU under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.

Members of the two unions staged a 24-hour strike last week which crippled Tube services, causing travel chaos.

The unions say a programme of hundreds of job cuts agreed by former London mayor Boris Johnson has gone too far and is affecting safety.

LU has agreed to new jobs but not enough to satisfy the unions.

The RMT has warned of further industrial action after February 6 if the row is not resolved.