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South Western Railway workers to walk out to save the train guard

SERVICES on some of Britain’s busiest rail routes will be hit this week as staff stage a five-day strike over guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway (SWR) will walk out from tomorrow, hitting services for commuters into London Waterloo and racegoers heading for Royal Ascot.

Industrial action was suspended in February when it appeared a resolution was in sight, but the union is renewing strikes after accusing the company of “dragging its heels” in protracted talks over the past few months.

According to the RMT, the company pledged that “each passenger train shall operate with a guard with safety-critical competencies.”

But union officials said that it had been stalemate since then and accused SWR of rowing back on its public pledges. The RMT said the company was not prepared to give assurances that its new operational model won’t move to driver-controlled operation, sparking fears of a “stitch-up.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have been left with no choice but to go ahead with strike action tomorrow.

“They are angry and frustrated that despite suspending action in good faith and entering into talks in a positive and constructive manner, South Western Railway have dragged their heels and failed to bolt down an agreement that matches up to our expectations on the guard guarantee.

“Worse than that, the company has refused to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard, fuelling fears amongst our members of a stitch-up.

“That situation has been compounded by an insistence that future operational models will be governed by the protection of company profits and not the safety of the travelling public.”

An SWR spokesman said: “It’s very disappointing that despite having had dates in the diary for what we hoped would be further constructive talks, the RMT union decided to call disruptive strike action over the course of five days.”

The company said it met the union last week and agreed to arrange new dates to continue those talks.

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