THE industrial dispute which has blighted the railway network showed no signs of ending as it entered its third day.

Opposing sides continued to trade insults yesterday with Rail Minister Paul Maynard wading in and accusing the unions of being against modernity and disliking the new fleet of “modern, spacious trains”.

Rail operator Govia Thameslink questioned RMT union members’ commitment to the strike by claiming one in five had attended work on Monday – something the union described as a “pack of lies”.

The bitter war of words continued as commuters face the third of a five-day strike over changes to the roles of drivers and conductors due be to imposed later this month.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) published its eight-point offer yesterday, which was originally tabled last Friday during talks with the union.

It included a commitment to guaranteeing trains which currently have conductors will continue to have either a traditional conductor or a second health-and-safety-trained member of staff on board.

However the offer fell short of the union’s demands to ensure all trains have a conductor without exception.

Govia said it had been trying to reach a deal for months with the RMT – but accused the union of failing to respond in “any meaningful way”.

During day two of the strike yesterday Southern said services were running well, with nine out of 10 trains on time – albeit on a severely reduced timetable.

Govia chief executive Charles Horton said: “This comprehensive and incredibly fair offer is on top of existing commitments made on no compulsory redundancies, no reduction in salary, a guaranteed above-inflation pay rise for two years, additional salary paid to staff working voluntary overtime and no compulsory location moves.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash yesterday offered to suspend the strike if GTR guaranteed fully skilled conductors on every train without exception – but Govia said this was “not possible”.

Following GTR’s offer, Mr Cash accused Govia of placing preconditions on talks.

In an open letter, he wrote: “I therefore ask you to reconsider your company’s position and to reconvene talks at Acas without preconditions and to do this with the utmost urgency.”


What is the strike about?

The RMT union objects to the imposition of new roles which would mean trains without conductors and drivers operating the doors. RMT argues this would be unsafe but Govia Thameslink Railway says it is safer for drivers to control the doors. The RMT has called a number of one-day walkouts over the issue, culminating in this week’s five-day strike.

What is the latest offer?

Govia offered the RMT a deal on Friday which involves guaranteeing trains with conductors would continue to either have a traditional conductor or second member of staff. The secondary member of staff would be health and safety trained but would not operate the doors, which would be done by drivers. Exceptional circumstances would be agreed when the trains could leave without conductors and extra staff to reduce lateness and cancellations.

What does the union say?

The RMT is adamant trains must have conductors who operate the doors. It wants a deal similar to the one recently agreed with Scotrail, which guarantees a conductor on every train, who retains their full role, without exception.

What is the Government doing?

The previous rail minister previously said it was not up to the Government to intervene. But the new administration yesterday came down against the unions, arguing they disliked the new “modern spacious, high-tech” trains.

What about commuters?

Commuters generally like to see more staff rather than fewer and are concerned about safety on trains. But ultimately they want a punctual service not subject to random cancellations, something neither side has been able to provide.