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South Western Railway strike: Industrial action to cause Christmas travel disruption | Business News

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Talks to avert rail strikes throughout December have broken down – meaning there is travel misery ahead for Christmas shoppers, commuters and people visiting family over the festive season.

South Western Railway (SWR) has warned passengers face a reduced service throughout the coming month after talks aimed at resolving the long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains collapsed, with both sides blaming each other.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will walk out on Monday and take 27 days of industrial action.

The strike will not take place on the day of the 12 December general election and as usual there will be no trains on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

On strike days some trains will be replaced by buses, some services will finish earlier than normal and peak services are likely to be much busier than usual.

SWR said it expects to run more than half its normal Monday to Friday services.

Passengers try to board a South Western Railway train
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The train operator serves around 600,000 daily passenger journeys every day

South Western serves around 600,000 daily passenger journeys every day on routes between London and the South West, including Bristol, Exeter and Weymouth.

Customers are being advised to check before travelling and allow extra time for their journey.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety-critical role of the guard at the point of despatch, and which would have cost the company absolutely nothing, have been kicked back in our faces.”

He added: “Our action goes ahead from Monday in defence of passenger safety and accessibility and the blame for that lies wholly with SWR and their wrecking strategy.

“The union remains available for talks and we have a deal to solve this dispute which is cost-free for SWR, worked up and ready to go. The company should grab it with both hands and avoid the disruption to services their actions will unleash.”

A SWR spokesman said: “We have done everything we can and more to meet the RMT’s outdated demands with our promise of a guard on every train, and a safety critical role for that guard.

“Unfortunately it is clear to us that the RMT is unclear on what this dispute is about and intent on striking no matter what.

“We know the impact these RMT strikes will have on our passengers and we want to be clear that we have done everything we can to try and avert the strikes and meet RMT’s antiquated and changing demands.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Yet more strikes are being dumped on passengers who may have to cancel Christmas holiday plans or endure miserable journeys to work.

“Passengers have had enough of the ongoing industrial action on South Western Railway services. They have faced lost time, money, more driving and deep frustration at not being able to rely on the trains.

“It is vital that the parties in this dispute get back around the table to urgently resolve it without bringing the railway to a standstill.”

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