THE leader of Britain’s biggest rail union was barred from joining talks aimed at heading off more strikes on Southern Rail yesterday.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash arrived at the conciliation service Acas alongside Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef.
The meeting was aimed at resolving a bitter dispute over driver-only trains which led to a second day of strikes yesterday.
But Mr Cash was told he could not attend the talks. He said: “Southern Rail were fully aware last night that I would be attending the talks this morning at Acas alongside our Aslef colleagues.
“This morning, on arrival for the talks, I was told that I would not be allowed to take part by representatives from the company.
“RMT is furious at the complete contempt that has been shown to us by Southern Rail this morning, which leaves us in a state of limbo when we should all be around the table thrashing out the issues that have led to the current action.
“Our members were expecting discussions to take place today and instead we have had the door slammed in our faces.”
Southern Rail said the RMT represented only 12 drivers, as opposed to 1,000 in Aslef.
However Govia Thameslink Railway chief operating officer Nick Brown, whose company owns Southern, said Mr Cash had been told that he would be welcome at talks later in the day.
“I have spoken with the general secretary of the RMT this morning and informed him we’d be happy to meet him at Acas later today to talk about any new proposals he has to try and end the conductors’ dispute,” he said.
Southern Rail is involved in two disputes on the same issue with Aslef and RMT — the removal of guards from its trains.
Southern passenger services director Angie Doll warned passengers that services will be “severely disrupted” today, despite drivers not being on strike.
She said: “With today’s strike ending at midnight, despite our best efforts, some trains and crew will still not be in position for tomorrow’s service; and the overtime ban will continue to have a serious impact.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan suggested handing over responsibility for commuter services to Transport for London in a bid to break the Southern deadlock.