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Southern rail strikes suspended as both sides agree to talks

PUBLISHED: 12:01 17 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:02 17 January 2017

Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

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Unions and bosses have been locked in a bitter dispute over driver-only trains.

The two sides will meet on Wednesday under the joint chairmanship of TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and Andy Meadows, HR director of rail firm Abellio.

Aslef said it has agreed to suspend three days of strikes scheduled for next week.

In a joint statement, Ms O’Grady and Mr Meadows said: “We are committed to finding a fair solution to this dispute. We are pleased the parties have agreed to meet for meaningful talks.”

Hundreds of thousands of passengers were hit by three days of strikes last week and have endured months of disruption because of industrial action, staff shortages and other issues.

Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern’s owner, Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We’ve always made clear our willingness to engage in meaningful talks with Aslef to find a route forward to end their dispute.

“So, together with our passengers and businesses, we warmly welcome their decision to suspend next week’s planned industrial action.

“This is an important and significant development for the travelling public and the regional economy, and our focus and efforts now will be on productive talks with the union and trying to find a solution and a way forward.

“We are grateful to Frances O’Grady and Andy Meadows for agreeing to chair jointly this important new round of talks and they have our unequivocal endorsement and support.”

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are set to strike next Monday in a separate row over changes to the role of conductors.

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