England

South Western Railway workers hold fifth guard strike

Strike notice
Image caption The rail operator said the strikes were "unnecessary" and "damaging"

Rail workers are holding a fifth 24-hour strike over the role of guards on South Western Railway (SWR).

Rail union RMT accused SWR of making "a mockery of agreed talks" before confirming the strike, which began at 00:01 BST on Saturday.

SWR said RMT had "chosen to needlessly inconvenience our customers".

The company said a reduced service was running on most of the network but some routes had no trains or replacement bus services.

Union members have so far staged four out of eight planned 24-hour walkouts this summer.

'Cavalier and contemptuous'

The RMT is asking for a guarantee of guards on trains and a halt to "rolling out of driver-only operation".

SWR said it would roster guards on all services but trains could still operate in "exceptional circumstances" if no guard was available.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union is "angry and frustrated that the company's cavalier and contemptuous approach to talks leaves us no option but to continue our programme of industrial action".

Image caption Three further strikes are scheduled in August and September

A SWR spokesman said: "The RMT executive's answer to every question is strike - they need to start accepting that the railway is modernising and that their members can play a key part in that future if only they stop calling for action and work with us to deliver a better railway for our customers.

"This decision is totally unnecessary and pointless - we cannot make it any clearer that our plans mean more, not fewer, guards. We have guaranteed to roster a second person on all our trains and we have guaranteed terms and conditions."

The strike affects services in Berkshire, Bristol, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, London, Somerset, Surrey and Wiltshire.

The Isle of Wight, also served by SWR, is unaffected.

Further strikes are scheduled for 31 August, and 1, 2, 8 and 15 September.

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