South Western Railway workers to hold four-day strike

Overcrowded train at Woking Image copyright Michael Ryan
Image caption Commuters reported severely disrupted journeys during a previous strike in June

A union has announced a four-day rail strike as part of a long-running dispute over train guards.

South Western Railway (SWR) services will be affected from Friday 30 August to Monday 2 September.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) is demanding guarantees over the guards' future functions.

SWR said the strikes had been announced despite an ongoing round of negotiations.

Image copyright RMT
Image caption The dispute over guards has been running for three years

Commuters said their journeys were "utter madness" and a "total mess" at the start of the previous five-day strike in June.

Overcrowded trains and long queues of passengers at Surbiton station were reported.

The dispute, involving several rail companies, began with RMT strikes on Southern Railway in April 2016.

The union announced hopes of a "significant breakthrough" after talks in February, when the company offered to guarantee the presence of a guard on every train.

RMT negotiator Mick Tosh said the firm had still "refused to rule out Driver-Only Operation".

He said the union was demanding that guards should oversee the operation of doors and perform other safety functions.

SWR said it had held four days of talks with the union in the past 10 days.

A spokesman said: "It's extremely disappointing that despite having a date in the diary for what we hoped would be constructive talks held in good faith, the RMT union has somewhat cynically decided to call further disruptive strike action, inflicting misery on our customers and colleagues.

"The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement."

The union has previously reached agreements with Merseyrail and Greater Anglia over the future of guards.

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