South Western Railway strike: Engineering adds to weekend woe

Bracknell station on 2 December Image copyright Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Image caption The strike means hundreds of services are being cancelled each day

Weekend travellers on South Western Railway (SWR) have faced disruption due to ongoing strike action compounded by engineering work.

Twenty-seven days of strike action by Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) members began on Monday.

Union leaders have called for fresh talks with rail bosses in the long-running row over train guards.

The company has warned passengers travel will be "especially challenging" throughout December.

Weekend engineering and maintenance work has also meant a number of line closures, including between Bournemouth and Poole, in the Twickenham area, and between London Waterloo and Kingston.

All lines in the Leatherhead area are closed all day on Sunday for maintenance work.

The strike means hundreds of services are being cancelled each day and many commuters have complained about overcrowded trains.

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Media captionBBC Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton explains the background to the strikes

The two sides remain deadlocked in the dispute over the role of guards.

On new trains due to start running next year, SWR wants drivers to operate the doors at every stop to save time.

Union members want guards to decide when to close the doors.

Letters have been exchanged in recent days, with the union calling for fresh talks at the conciliation service Acas.

The RMT says the dispute now centres on whether guards should have a few seconds to make sure trains leave platforms safely.

A spokesman said: "The union will continue to push for a negotiated settlement that protects passenger safety and our members remain rock-solid in the ongoing action."

SWR managing director Andy Mellors said in a letter that further talks must be on the proviso that the union has a "new solution" to safely delivering over 10 million more peak-time passenger journeys on time each year.

Image copyright Jane Curtis
Image caption Commuters criticised overcrowded trains
Image copyright RMT
Image caption Union members have staged pickets at stations on the SWR network

SWR released a revised timetable and said it would provide longer trains to increase capacity where possible.

The operator runs services between London Waterloo and Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth as well as Reading, Exeter and Bristol. It also operates suburban commuter lines in south-west London, Surrey, Berkshire, and north-east Hampshire.

Strike days are as follows:

  • From 00:01 GMT on Monday 2 December until 23:59 on Wednesday 11 December
  • From 00:01 on Friday 13 December until 23:59 on Tuesday 24 December
  • From 00:01 on Friday 27 December 2019 until 23:59 on 1 January

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