A stand-off between Southern Rail and its train drivers has crippled thousands of services and is causing misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Members of train drivers’ union Aslef mounted picket lines outside stations at the start of a 48-hour walkout in a dispute over driver-only trains, with another strike planned for Friday.

All of Southern's 2,242 weekday services were cancelled, causing the worst disruption for more than 20 years.

Commuters are planning a protest outside the Department for Transport (DfT) on Thursday evening.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling continued to blame the unions for the months of disruption to Southern services and urged them to sit down with the company to resolve long-running disputes over driver-only trains and changes to the role of conductors.

But Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) attacked the Government, saying ministers had been preventing Southern from negotiating properly.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said his union's Southern drivers were standing "shoulder to shoulder" with their Aslef colleagues.

He said: "This strike action is wholly the responsibility of a Government and a company that have sought to bulldoze through changes that are ill-conceived, finance-led and fraught with danger.

"This morning Chris Grayling claimed again that the action on Southern is political - it isn't, it's about safe train operation for both passengers and staff alike."

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, accused the Transport Secretary of being "less than honest on all counts".

Mr Grayling said the strike was "futile", adding that he would have a "careful look" at how to deal with the situation when the dispute ends.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he was not ruling any options in or out.

"We are looking very carefully at how we take things forward. There are a lot of things to consider."

Mr Grayling said he was not happy with the performance of the railways in general but he could not deal with the problems until the Southern strikes ended.

He said he had asked Southern's owner, Govia Thameslink Railway, to attend fresh talks at the conciliation service Acas but Aslef had refused - a claim the union has denied.

In a video message posted on Twitter, mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged the Government to give TfL control of commuter lines like Southern, Southeastern and South West.

Southern rail passengers have been abandoned by the Government. You deserve a better service. #SouthernRail pic.twitter.com/JE8p6LFkQS

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) December 13, 2016

Mr Khan said: "You pay too much for delays, cancellations and disruption. You deserve a better service.

“Southern commuters have been abandoned by the Government. You've had months of chaos. But it doesn't have to be like this."

The mayor urged commuters to write to the Transport Secretary and the Prime Minister for TfL to have control - promising a "more frequent and more reliable" service "with fewer strikes" and "more affordable fares".

He added: "This is far more important than party politics. Together we can secure the decent and affordable commute that you deserve."

Tram services around Wimbledon were disrupted because of "high passenger volume".