- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

LONDON (AP) - A 48-hour strike by train drivers crippled rail services Tuesday in southern England as a long-running dispute delayed and canceled journeys for hundreds of thousands of London commuters.

The dispute on Southern Railway about whether drivers or on-board guards should close the train doors has dragged on for months, and commuters have complained that some of them have lost their jobs in the ongoing chaos.

Drivers joined the picket lines Tuesday, ensuring that all of Southern’s 2,242 weekday services were canceled.

Passengers traveling to Gatwick Airport were also affected, with an express service running every half-hour rather than every 15 minutes.

Another daylong strike is planned for Friday, meaning some 300,000 commuters in one of the most densely populated areas of Britain will have no train service for much of the week.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blamed the unions and urged talks. Unions attacked the government, saying the issue is one of safety and that ministers have been preventing Southern from negotiating properly.

Southern’s owner, Govia Thameslink Railway, announced Tuesday that union and management representatives would hold talks with mediators Wednesday in a bid to end the “misery and inconvenience” to travelers.

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