England

South Western Railway strike: Union in fresh talks call

Commuters crowded on a South Western Railway train Image copyright Taler Kelly
Image caption Passengers faced packed carriages on the second day of disruption

Union leaders have called for fresh talks with rail bosses on the second day of strike action in a row over train guards.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said its members on South Western Railway (SWR) were "standing firm" on the second of 27 planned strikes.

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.

'Only Bublé can save me'

The two sides have not budged on the matter during more than two years of strikes.

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

Image copyright Jane Curtis
Image caption A number of people were reported to have been taken ill on overcrowded trains

Trainee solicitor Taler Kelly said: "Only Michael Bublé singing 'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas' in my ears can save me a little from feeling sad."

Describing her commute to work from Stoneleigh to Waterloo on an overcrowded train she said: "Patience is low. To have to deal with a train not running at all between 06:10 and 07:40 due to cancellations, in addition to only half a service, is impossible. People need to get in to work."

Jess Cowper, who travels from Wimbledon to Vauxhall every day, told BBC News: "We're very much sardines in a can when these strikes happen.

"We pay a lot for our season tickets so at the very least I feel we should have space to breathe.

"These strikes don't seem to solve anything and only serve to frustrate their customers who are just trying to use the service they have paid for."

Adding to the issues on Tuesday, a signal failure between Fulwell and Shepperton means services running to and from these stations may be cancelled, delayed or changed at short notice, with disruption expected until 12:00 GMT.

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

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Our members are solidly supporting the second day of this phase of strike action.

"It is frankly ludicrous for the company to simply jam their heads in the sand rather than getting back round the table to get the same deal back on track that they pulled away from at the last minute in earlier negotiations.

"A deal is there to be done which would cost the company nothing and which would give the safety and accessibility guarantees at the platform/train interface that we have been seeking.

"SWR need to get out of the bunker and get back into talks."

The train company said it has given the union guarantees about having guards on its trains.

Image copyright Becky Bartlett
Image caption The morning rush hour on Monday meant a crowded platform at Wokingham station
Image copyright RMT
Image caption Union members took part in a picket at Waterloo Station

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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