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.