The threat of fresh disruption is hanging over passengers of strike-hit Southern Railway, as drivers are balloted on walkouts over pay.
The ASLEF union made the announcement as a delayed report on the company’s performance slammed poor infrastructure – coupled with industrial disputes – for a strain on services to the travelling public.
In addition to the pay dispute, the union’s members are preparing to begin a ban on overtime on 29 June in their separate row with the operator over driver-only trains.
That quarrel, also involving the RMT Union, has dragged on for 15 months – resulting in services often being crippled by strikes.
The pay vote being put to ASLEF members follows the failure of months of talks, which could result in driver strikes from 27 July – the start of the school holidays.
Southern said its offer amounted to a rise of almost 24% over four years.
It threatened to withdraw the offer – reported to take a driver’s basic salary above £60,000 – if the overtime ban went ahead on the issue of driver-only operation.
Video: Regulator: Southern plans can be safe
A spokesman said: “People will be amazed the Aslef leadership has rejected such a significant pay offer for their members, especially as they have twice before accepted the extension of driver-controlled operation which has now been in place for over six months.”
He added: “This ballot is a real chance for drivers to end this dispute by showing they want to accept the 23.8% pay offer and work with us to modernise the congested Southern network as updated infrastructure, trains and working practices provide the service passengers need and deserve.”
ASLEF’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, has previously called for Southern’s owner, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), to be stripped of the franchise for Southern’s “failure” to deliver services.
Video: Rail boss outlines progress in rail strike talks
He said on Thursday: “We have been talking to the company over the last fortnight in parallel, but separate, talks about drivers’ terms and conditions; industrial relations and pay.
“The company’s failure to engage over driver-only operation is the reason our members will no longer work overtime – which, of course, is entirely voluntary – from 29 June.”
News of the fresh strike ballot emerged shortly after GTR’s parent firm used its latest results to warn Southern passengers of the risk of fresh disruption from the threatened driver overtime ban.
It said GTR passenger revenues for the year to 1 July were expected to fall by around 4% – in line with a 4% decline in passenger journeys.
The announcements coincided with the publication of a report by the Network Rail director Chris Gibb on the company’s performance.
It concluded: “On Southern, all elements of the system have been under strain: unreliable infrastructure, a timetable that is very tight and with overcrowded peak services, some key stations that are overcrowded, depots that are full and for historic reasons are in the wrong place, and people involved in informal and formal industrial action.
“The system cannot possibly work to passengers’ satisfaction with these components in this state.”