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27 day rail strike starts in Surrey and Hampshire

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27 day rail strike starts in Surrey and Hampshire

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 5:44am 2nd December 2019. (Updated at 7:07am 2nd December 2019)

Strike action is due to hit thousands of passengers in our area after South Western Railway (SWR) and the RMT union failed to reach a deal.

It means commuters on trains across Surrey and Hampshire face disruption in a long-running dispute over guards on trains.

Members of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union) who work on SWR will walk out for 27 days from today (2 December), until New Year's Day.

It is the longest stretch of action against a major rail operator in living memory.

The rail firm says only around half of services will run, including those to and from Waterloo, the country's busiest station.

SWR has put in place a number of revised timetables during the strikes.

Action 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.

Talks between the two sides collapsed last week, with the union and company blaming each other.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, 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.

"There is no rational explanation for the company position and we can only assume that either they or their paymasters in Government want this strike action to go ahead for politically motivated purposes.

"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... The company should grab it with both hands."

An 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"We have done everything we can and more to meet the RMT's outdated demands with our promise of a guard on every train and a safety critical role for that guard.

"What we are not prepared to compromise on is the much-needed modernisation of the service with improved performance, safety and customer service that our new fleet of modern suburban trains will vitally deliver for customers.

"Throughout negotiations we have tried repeatedly to find ways to meet the RMT's aspirations.

"However, every time we find a way forward on one point the union has moved the goalposts by changing its position."