AN ‘unprecedented' series of strikes will begin on South Western Railway services next week and threaten to cause travel chaos over Christmas.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers confirmed that the industrial action is set to start on Monday after talks broke down with the rail franchise after it ‘point-blank refused’ to meet their demands.
The 27 days of strikes will take place throughout December including over the Christmas period and into the New Year with guards, commercial guards and drivers set to walk out.
It is the latest in a long running dispute between RMT and South Western Rail (SWR) over the future of guard roles on the franchise’s trains.
Confirming that the strikes will go ahead from Monday, the union’s general secretary Mike Cash said: ‘RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety-critical role of the guard at the point of despatch, and which would have cost the company absolutely nothing, have been kicked back in our faces.
‘Our action goes ahead from Monday in defence of passenger safety and accessibility.
‘The union remains available for talks and we have a deal to solve this dispute which is cost free for SWR worked up and ready to go. The company should grab it with both hands and avoid the disruption to services their actions will unleash.’
Here is the full list of dates RMT members will be striking:
- From 12.01am on Monday, December 2 until 11.59 on Wednesday, December 11
- From 12.01am on Friday, December 13 until 11.59pm on Tuesday, December 24 (Christmas Eve)
- From 12.0am on Friday, December 27 until 11.59pm on January 1, 2020.
Which days are they not striking in December?
The only days that the strikes will not take place next month will be on Sunday, December 1, Christmas Day and Boxing Day as well as the day of the general election on Thursday, December 12.
So if you are planning on taking the train over the Christmas period then you could face disruption.
How will it affect SWR services?
The rail franchise has advised customers to check before they travel throughout December.
SWR is aiming to run just over 50 per cent of its usual service.
Andy Mellors, managing director of the franchise, said: ‘We have a team of around 250 contingency guards as well as guards who come into work, in previous strikes this has been around one in four.
‘They will be providing our service to customers during the strike period and we will be able to run just over half of our usual services.
‘Last trains will be earlier than usual. Our advice to anyone travelling during the strike period is to check our website before travelling.’
He added: ‘A strike of this level is unprecedented.
‘Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year, and we know people will be worried about how they get to work, school and other commitments like Christmas parties.
‘So we are working hard on detailed plans for the period of the strikes and we will do everything we can to keep customers moving.
‘Over the Christmas period there will also be engineering work, we have got to reflect that in our strike timetable.
‘We are doing our level best to provide the best possible service to our customers.’