LONDON (Reuters) - A deal which promised to end one of Britain's longest and most damaging rail strikes collapsed on Thursday after members of a train drivers' union voted to reject it.
ASLEF said its members had voted by 54.1 percent to reject a deal aimed at ending a dispute on Southern Rail over who should open automatic doors of trains at stations - drivers, or on-board conductors.
Strikes over the dispute have paralysed services in southern England for months and caused travel chaos for millions of commuters. Unions insist safety is the main issue, but management say driver-operated doors were safe.
"We understand and support the decision arrived at democratically by our members and will now work to deliver a resolution in line with their expectations," said Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef.
Nick Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, Southern's parent company, said they were hugely disappointed with the result, particularly as the agreement had carried the full support and recommendation of the ASLEF leadership.
"We now need to understand the issues which led to this outcome and we’ll be seeking to meet with the union as soon as possible to see how we can agree a way forward," he said.
Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; editing by Kate Holton