Southern Rail misery could soon be over as drivers vote on pay rise deal

Francesca Gillett
The long-running dispute over driver-only trains could come to an end: PA Wire/PA Images

Southern Rail commuters could soon see an end to their misery as drivers prepare to vote on a fresh deal which could resolve the long-running dispute.

Leaders of Aslef union are urging their members to accept the deal in an upcoming ballot. If it passes the vote, the deal would finally bring a conclusion to the bitter 18-month row – the longest in railway history.

The proposed agreement guarantees a second, safety-trained person on every train except in “very exceptional circumstances”, Aslef bosses said. It also includes a 28.5 per cent pay increase over the next five years.

Two previous agreements negotiated by Aslef leaders were rejected in ballots, but general secretary Mick Whelan said the new proposal is different, offering a "complete resolution" to the dispute over driver-only trains.

The RMT Union has not been involved in the latest talks between Aslef and Southern’s owners, Govia Thameslink Railway, and remains in dispute over the role of guards.

Southern: Commuters hit by strike action in the run up to last Christmas. (PA)

Mr Whelan said: "Aslef members now have the opportunity to decide on the new proposed resolution we have negotiated with the company on the three outstanding issues we have with GTR Southern.

"In separate, but parallel, talks our negotiating team discussed three distinct issues, driver-only operation (DOO), terms and conditions, and pay.

"The proposed agreement on DOO means we will have a second safety-trained person on every train covered by this agreement except in exceptional circumstances.

"That person will have all the relevant safety competence including the skills to evacuate passengers in an emergency.

"The proposed agreement confirms and underpins the terms and conditions under which our members at Southern are employed."

Mr Whelan said the proposed agreement has the full support of the union's negotiating team, and Aslef's executive committee.

"This is, we think, a complete resolution of our long-standing issues with Southern but it is, I must stress, company-specific and does not have implications for any other company on the railway network."

Ballot papers will be sent to members on October 24 and the result will be announced on November 8.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "We welcome the Aslef executive's endorsement of the proposals we have negotiated to resolve the dispute.

"We have concluded negotiations on pay, productivity and driver only operation in a package that will now be put to a referendum of Aslef members."