Twitter typo sparks row between South Western Railway and RMT over train guards as strikes continue

Share this article
Have your say

A TWITTER typo about the role of guards on trains has sparked a row between South Western Railway and the RMT.

The union for railway workers accused the firm’s Twitter manager of ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ over the future of its train guards after they made a blunder in a reply to a customer on social media on Monday.

A South Western Railway train. Picture: Victoria Jones/ PA Wire

A South Western Railway train. Picture: Victoria Jones/ PA Wire

Via its 24/7 updates account, @SW_Help, the operator said to one tweeter: ‘Morning, the trains we currently have on the network cannot be run without a guard, that situation would change, the dispute is about the introduction of new stock, which could potentially be operated by the driver.’

The since-deleted tweet sparked fears in the RMT that the operator, which runs serices through Portsmouth, had confirmed it would scrap guards on its future services – dealing a blow to its continuing strikes against the issue.

But South Western Railway has hit back, claiming the reply was ‘badly worded’ – criticising the RMT for using a ‘typo’ to ‘justify unnecessary strikes’.

A spokesman for the firm said: ‘This was a badly worded tweet sent on Monday in response to a customer question.

‘The tweet should have read “the trains we currently have on our network cannot run without a guard, that situation WON’T change, the dispute is about the introduction of new stock, which has the potential to be operated by the driver.”

‘We have made it very clear that our intention is to keep a guard on all our trains, including the new stock when it arrives.

‘We have even offered the RMT a framework agreement which guarantees we would never run a train without a guard if they work with us to help ensure the new trains are operated in a way that maximises the performance benefits of the new fleet.

‘The RMT is trying to use a typo in a tweet that was sent earlier in the week to justify these unnecessary strikes. Strikes that were called weeks ago.’

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said the union ‘doesn’t believe for a moment' the tweet was an accident.

‘The problem for SWR is that they have been caught out and are now back-pedalling as they know that the truth is dynamite in terms of this unions campaign,' he said.

‘Instead of making pathetic excuses they should be honouring their promises on the guard and reaching a lasting agreement with us.’

The spat comes as South Western Railway workers, who are members of the RMT, are striking for a second day over fears guards could be ousted on the firm's trains. 

Members will continue to demonstrate until Saturday, affecting a number of London-bound services in the Portsmouth area. 

RMT members previously staged strikes after rail operator Southern said it would increase the number of driver-only trains it runs. 

These services, which do not have guards, see drivers open and close doors at stops.