01/04/2005

Urgent talks avert threatened rail strike

Train drivers union Aslef has called off the threat of a rail strike on Monday after urgent talks were held today.

Aslef had been threating to disrupt services in a major row over rail safety, claiming that thousands of drivers would refuse to drive trains through areas covered by a contentious communications system. However, the union entered into talks on Friday afternoon, involving Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Rail Safety and Standards.

Thousands of drivers were said to be prepared to disrupt services passing through Stoke and Leddbum Junction (NW coast mainline), the Dorset Coast and Horsham from April 4.

Aslef said that "utter chaos" would be caused by the action, which would involve trains operated by Virgin, West Coast, Silverlink, Central Trains and Southern Trains, amongst others.

Agreement was reached on safety levels following the talks on Friday afternoon.

Prior to the meeting Aslef's Acting General Secretary Keith Norman said that union members felt that safety levels had declined to the point where they could "no longer cooperate with a safety lottery".

The row erupted following a breakdown in on-going talks between Aslef and Network Rail regarding the ability of drivers to alert other trains and signal operators to an accident or other problem on the track.

Drivers had been dissatisfied with a temporary solution to the problem, 'Interim Voice Radio System' (IVRS), was introduced, but Aslef said that it was seen to have "system failures".

(KMcA/SP)

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