England

South Western Railway workers to strike Christmas weekend

Workers on the picket line at Waterloo Station Image copyright RMT
Image caption Further 24-hour strikes are planned for 17 and 24 November

Workers on South Western Railway (SWR) are to strike on the weekend before Christmas, union leaders have said.

Guards and train drivers are due to walk out for 24 hours on Saturday 22 December in a continuing dispute about the role of guards on new trains.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said SWR refused to engage in "serious talks".

SWR said the timing meant RMT was inflicting "maximum misery" on people travelling ahead of Christmas.

The strike will affect London Waterloo, the capital's busiest station.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash accused the train operator of playing "fast and loose" with passenger safety by "opening up a loophole that would allow them to run services driver-only at their discretion".

He said: "There's a simple solution to ‎this dispute and it means SWR stop playing with words and negotiate the guard guarantee that reflects the safety values of the agreements RMT has pinned down in other parts of the rail industry."

A SWR spokesman called the strike "unnecessary" and added: "We have guaranteed to roster a guard on every train, and we need more, not fewer guards - 70 more by May 2019 - and we have an opportunity with the introduction of the new suburban trains to operate these trains differently to maximise the customer benefits.

"Should this action go ahead, we will do everything we can to provide the best service possible for our customers."

SWR operates services from London Waterloo to Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire.

The strike will begin at 00:01 and end at 23:59 GMT.

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