LONDON Dec 15 A strike by train drivers which
has brought rail services in southern England to a standstill
and caused chaos for hundreds of thousands of London commuters
will continue after talks on Thursday failed to end the dispute.
Drivers on the Southern Rail network will begin a 24-hour
stoppage at midnight following two days of strikes earlier in
the week which caused Britain's worst rail disruption for two
"Passengers and businesses are being held to ransom by the
unions' wholly unjustified and unnecessary industrial action,"
said Nick Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Govia Thameslink
The dispute between the drivers' union ASLEF and Southern,
run by GTR, a joint venture owned by London-listed Go-Ahead
and France's Keolis, centres on whose role it should be
to open and close the train doors.
The union says it should be the job of a conductor, a second
onboard staff member, as a safety issue while the company says
driver-only operated trains already run across the rail network
without any problems.
Southern said talks at the conciliation service Acas had
failed because the union would not shift its position of
opposition to the company's modernisation plans.
"ASLEF claims drivers closing doors is inherently unsafe,"
Brown said. "For 30 years trains have been running up and down
the country's railways this way and today over a third of the
national train network runs this way."
Commentators said this week's strikes would have the biggest
impact since action by signal workers in the mid-1990s and Prime
Minister Theresa May has called the strike "appalling".
Her spokesman said on Thursday: "It is disappointing to see
that the talks have ended today without any resolution but we
would urge all parties to get around the negotiating table again
and come up with a solution to end this."
A series of strikes on Southern this year has caused misery
for commuters, some of whom say they have even lost their jobs
because they could not get to work.
However, many blame the company for the problems and say the
government has done nothing to resolve the dispute.
Southern's parent company Go-Ahead said on Thursday its
full-year expectations for its rail division were slightly below
previous forecasts due to the repeated strike action on its
Southern rail contract.
(Editing by Stephen Addison)