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South Western Railway staff to strike for nearly all of December

Rail workers on one of Britain’s biggest commuter networks, South Western Railway, are set to go on strike for almost all of December.

The RMT union announced a total of 27 days of action for next month in the long-running dispute over the future role of guards on trains.

Previous stoppages, over shorter periods, forced South Western to cut about half of timetabled services. A longer strike would likely mean even greater disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

The union accused the train operator of failing to honour a potential deal, reached after a long standoff. It said South Western would not give assurances over the role of guards.

Strikes will run from 2 December until new year, breaking only for the general election on 12 December, and for Christmas Day and Boxing Day – when there are no trains running anyway.

The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Our members have been left with no choice but to call a further 27 days of strike action on South Western Railway.

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“At the last meeting we held with SWR principles in agreements were made in good faith with the company’s negotiating team and we now feel hugely let down again. As long as the company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard we will remain in dispute.”

He said the union remained available for talks.

South Western Railway serves an average of 600,000 passenger journeys daily, operating out of Britain’s busiest railway station, London Waterloo, to regions including Surrey and Hampshire.

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The ongoing dispute over guards and driver-controlled operation of trains, which prompted prolonged industrial action at Southern, has spread to networks including Northern, Merseyrail and most recently West Midlands Trains.

The RMT has called its members out on strike for seven consecutive Saturdays in November and December on West Midlands, which includes the local West Midlands Railway and longer-distance London Northwestern Railway services. The train operator said it had committed to keeping a guard on every passenger train.


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