Rail talks fail to halt 24-hour drivers' strike

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The Independent Online

More than 200,000 rail commuters face a chaotic journey into work today after the failure of last-minute talks to avert a 24-hour strike by train drivers.

More than 200,000 rail commuters face a chaotic journey into work today after the failure of last-minute talks to avert a 24-hour strike by train drivers.

Connex, the company operating trains on some of the busiest rail routes in the South-east, is expected to run only one in 10 of its normal services.

It was thought, however, that talks would continue behind the scenes in an attempt to avert other day-long stoppages, on 2, 10, 18, 21 and 29 February.

The stoppages are all called in support of a demand for a shorter working week.

Integrated Transport Information Services said 250,000 extra cars could be on the roads into London, causing a 100 square mile gridlock. "People need to consider car-sharing, working from home or starting their journeys very much earlier to avoid what will be a nightmare day," a spokesman said.

The London Chamber of Commerce said the real losers of the strike would be the workers who rely on trains.

An RAC spokesman said: "Congestion will be bad. A lot of people are absolutely dependent on the railways to get into central London. The r.oads are bad at the best of times."

Talks between Connex and representatives of drivers in both Connex South Central and Connex South Eastern ended without agreement yesterday. Mick Rix, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, wrote an open letter to management attacking its attitude to employment relations. He accused Connex of breaking promises and hit out at "misinformation" appearing in Connewspaper advertisements: "It would be better employed using the taxpayers' money to provide a better public service."

A spokesman for Connex conceded that management had offered the union nothing new in discussions yesterday, but that the company had indicated its readiness to enter "meaningful" talks about the introduction of reduced working time.

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