Fresh talks between bosses of the troubled Southern rail network and the RMT union are expected to be held next week, giving travellers hope of a complete end to strike action.

The rail's operators Govia Thameslink (GTR) has been locked in a bitter dispute with the RMT and Aslef unions over changes to train guards' roles.

A major breakthrough on Thursday (2 February) saw Aslef, which represents train drivers, reach a deal with the firm, ending strikes that have crippled the service and brought misery to the 300,000 commuters who use Southern.

But the dispute with the RMT, which represents train conductors and a small number of drivers, is ongoing.

On Friday, there was hope this too could be resolved as GTR announced it had invited the RMT for fresh talks next week.

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said his negotiating team was willing to meet "in a spirit of open and positive dialogue to explore the areas of difference between us with a view to resolving the dispute in the interests of our customers and employees".

Commenting on the agreement with Aslef, he added: "We would call on the RMT to follow that same consensual spirit and leadership and come to the table with the courage, confidence and conviction to settle their dispute for the benefit of passengers, the regional economy, their members and our employees".

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said he had contacted GTR to seek available dates for the talks, saying he hoped they could commence "early next week".

The dispute centres on GTR's attempts to shift towards Driver Only Operation (DOO) trains, seeing conductors removed and the responsibility for operating doors transferred to drivers.

Union bosses have argued the proposals are unsafe, although they are already operational on about a third of Britain's railways.

Full details of the deal reached between Aslef and GTR have not yet been revealed. It will be voted on by its members on 16 February.