ONE of Britain’s longest rail disputes looked to finally be ending last night as train drivers accepted a 28.5 per cent pay rise.
Aslef members voted overwhelmingly to take the offer from Southern bosses after 18 months of strikes and working to rule over new trains with doors operated by drivers rather than guards.
In a major climbdown, the company has also promised a second worker will be on all services unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as staff calling in sick.
The pay rise will be implemented in stages over five years but drivers could end up on nearly £80,000, including overtime.
The RMT union, which represents guards, said last night it remained in dispute with Southern. But the strike disruption on the network has been worst on days when the Aslef drivers have been involved. The deal
offers hope for commuters relying on Southern, which carries 300,000 passengers a day between London and areas such as Brighton, Portsmouth and Southampton.
Services have been so crippled that some workers quit their jobs in the capital and house prices fell.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash called the offer accepted by Aslef a ‘shoddy deal’ that would ‘extend discrimination’ against disabled and older people who need help getting on trains.
Pressure group Railfuture said the RMT members may decide the ‘exceptional circumstances’ caveat is the thin end of the wedge, and fight on for guarantees that drivers would never be alone.
But the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operating companies, said the union had been left ‘completely isolated’.
A spokesman said: ‘The travelling public will not thank them for another round of disruptive and unnecessary strike action.’
The deal accepted by Aslef will take drivers’ base salaries for a 35-hour, four-day working week from £49,001 to £62,967.
Many work a fifth day — on overtime rates up to 25 per cent higher than their usual pay — so their total earnings could reach about £79,000.