The rail union, the RMT has announced 27 days of strikes will take place in December on South Western Railway (SWR) in a long running dispute over driver only operated trains.

The union has long stated that SWR should uphold an agreement made with its predecessor, South West Trains to guarantee two members of staff on all services. The union says that South Western Railway’s refusal to ensure that future services wont move to Driver Controlled Operation is the reason for the strike.

There is some dispute about whether having a guard on the trains makes a difference, with some bodies arguing that they are necessary for safety in case of problems and to act as reassurance for passengers, although the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) itself disagrees that they are needed for safety reasons.

A number of lines, including the London Underground operate with the driver controlling the doors at stations, and the rail operators, other than eyeing up the cost savings possible, also argue that trains have to be cancelled the guards are not available.

Another factor is that SWR has committed to replacing a lot of its trains, and that modern trains are often supplied — to Department for Transport specifications — without the ability for a second guard to control the doors, with all the controls being in the driver cab. This DfT mandated specification puts a lot of pressure on the rail operator to phase out the use of guards, as they would be essentially redundant anyway in the new trains.

In a statement, SWR said it has offered to keep guards on all trains and the union was “purely focussed on keeping control of train doors in a misguided attempt to hold power over the industry”.

In the meantime, the customers on the railways will continue to suffer as the unions, the DfT and SWR battle it out.

With just one day of normal service, there will be effectively no SWR trains running throughout December.

Strikes will take place for 10 days, from Mon 2nd Dec right through to the end of Wed 11th December.

The semi-service will run on Thurs 12th December — presumably due to the general election — but a quantity of trains will be affected by the aftermath of the strike.

A second strike will then start on Fri 13th Dec and run right through to Christmas Day.

The union takes Christmas and Boxing Day off.

Then a third strike will run from Fri 27th Dec through to the end of 1st Jan.


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Article last updated: 6 November 2021 08:49


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  1. londononline says:

    Great! So the public suffers once again for something that has precious little to do with them. Striking for a whole month is outrageous and loses any sympathy they might have had

  2. JP says:

    If the strike goes through entirely and as planned then I shall have to eat my hat. I am against this classic bluntest of blunt instruments, especially as it affects the passengers, sorry we’re customers now aren’t we, who are but innocent bystanders. What else can they do though?
    I’m with them and still bemoan the lack of Doreen the splendidly made-up doyenne and conductor of the no. 14 bus. Safe door operations aside, both the bus conductor and the train guard provide[d] an intangible public assurance. Without them all problems, niggles and more serious issues will have to be dealt with by the person who drives the refreshment trolley if indeed you’re on a service that’s long-distance enough to warrant one. How long before they themselves kick up a fuss – again rightly – that they’re doing more than their job title covers?
    If there’s no trolley then it’s have-a-go-hero time again which we’re always being told not to do.
    So how does this situation square with the nanny state legislating out natural human instincts to help, as it is wont to do at every opportunity? Inadvertently re-placing trust in the great british public like wot it was in the good old days.
    Can’t see us being allowed to be that free for too long.

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