One of the bosses of Southern rail has apologised to commuters ahead of a month of expected travel chaos on UK trains. Industrial action from the RMT and ASLEF unions means that on some days in December, Southern are running no trains in the south-east, and have advised passengers to make alternative arrangements.

Alex Foulds, the deputy chief operating officer for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) who run Southern, said: "I think it is very hard to excuse the service, I think the service has been very poor over the last few months and certainly not good enough for our customers and I apologise for that. That is something that hurts, and we hear many stories of how our customers have been inconvenienced by the service disruption that they faced".

The long-running dispute between the unions and GTR stems from the changing role of on-board train guards and conductors. Southern want to move to a mainly driver-operated service, something they say will free up conductors to focus on customer service.

However, the RMT claim that this would lead to services with no on-board supervisor or conductor, which they say would put passengers at risk and make the trains less safe.

The RMT, who represent conductors, have called strikes from 6-8 December, 19-20 December, and 31 December-2 January. Aslef, who represent train drivers in this dispute, will also be striking on the 13, 14 and 16 December.

Foulds added: "There is an onus on us all now to work together to solve these problems. I think that everybody needs to get around the table and talk about how we can introduce these changes that we want to make".