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RMT and Southern talks restart in last-ditch effort to avoid five-day strike

Southern has said it will have to cancel over 40% of its services next week if RMT does not call off a five-day strike by tomorrow afternoon.

Southern and RMT are now in talks at the Acas offices to try to avoid the strike, due to start on 8 August.

If the strike goes ahead, it will lead to even more disruption on the network, where Southern has already cancelled 341 services a day to try to reduce overall disruptions.

Angie Doll, passenger service director at Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), said: “We are sorry that our passengers once again look set to suffer further disruption because of the RMT. The union must call this action off by Thursday afternoon if we are to avoid having to put in Monday’s strike timetable.”

Under the revised timetable, over 40% of services on the normal timetable (before services were cut) will be cancelled, 43 stations will close, and services in and out of London Bridge and London Victoria will be reduced.

The strikes are the latest in a long-running challenge by RMT over Southern’s plans to expand driver-only operated (DOO) services.

Under the new services, which are due to be introduced on 21 August, conductors can’t open the doors on trains.

Doll said the new services would “cost no one their jobs” and would reduce overall cancellations because conductors will be able to work on any service, instead of having to stay on specific routes.

RMT is in a separate dispute over similar issues with ScotRail, which has now offered not to introduce DOO services on its new electrified trains. The union has refused to call off strikes while it considers whether to accept the offer.

Southern has refused to give a date for when its cancelled services will be restored. It said the revised temporary timetable will operate “for a minimum three weeks” after the end of the strike on 12 August.

However, it said that during that time, it aims to restore peak morning shuttle services on the West London line between Clapham Junction and Watford.

London TravelWatch has recommended that Transport for London takes over the Southern franchise if services are not restored within a month.

RMT declined to comment at this stage when contacted by RTM.

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(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Images)

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