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Railways RMT to hold strike on New Year's Eve

NEW Year’s Eve rail services will be hit by a fresh round of strikes aimed at protecting the role of guards on trains and rosters.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway (SWR) and CrossCountry will walk out for 24 hours on Sunay, causing delays and cancellations.

The union is planning more strikes in January on SWR, Southern, Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and Arriva Rail North services in the bitter row over guards.

At CrossCountry, the dispute is over rosters and Sunday working.

The SWR strike will disrupt services to and from London Waterloo, the busiest station in the country.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash slammed the “continuing failure of the train companies and their political puppet masters in government” to make any attempt to resolve the separate disputes over rail safety.

He said there is “chaos and confusion” in the rail industry over the government’s position, which makes it almost impossible to negotiate.

Mr Cash has written again to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to express concern at the “lack of clarity and contradictory messages” and to offer further talks.

“It really should be straightforward. The Scottish and Welsh governments have agreed to keep the guards on our trains, so there is no reason why the UK government and the UK-based operators cannot do the same,” he said.

“We should be allowed a clear opportunity to negotiate a deal with South Western Railway that underpins the guard guarantee.”

SWR managing director Andy Mellors said the company wants to discuss with RMT what happens when a guard is unavailable at short notice, insisting that it plans to keep a guard on all its trains.

“We have given them repeated reassurances that we will need more guards as we introduce new and longer trains,” he claimed. “For the sake of our passengers and their members they need to stop scaremongering and start talking.”

Mr Cash said of the CrossCountry dispute that it is the company’s “ineptitude and arrogance” that has forced the union to take this further round of action.

“Our members are standing up for the principles of a decent work-life balance and against the abuse of rostering and Sunday working by a management that is out of control,” he said.

A spokesman for CrossCountry urged RMT to call off the strike.

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