Monday 16 December 2019
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The News - 13 days ago

Misery for SWR passengers as union starts strike

LONDON: Hundreds of thousands of rail passengers faced travel misery on Monday at the start of a series of strikes in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway (SWR) walked out on the first of 27 days of industrial action lasting until New Year s Day the longest stretch of action against a major rail operator in living memory.Passengers have been warned that only around half of services will run, including those to and from London Waterloo, the country s busiest railway station. Services will be cancelled, replaced by buses or finish earlier than normal, and trains that do run are expected to be busier than normal.Monday s disruption was worsened by a track circuit failure which hit services between Reading and Ascot, meaning fewer trains were able to run on all lines. The problem was expected to hit services until midday.Talks between the two sides collapsed last week, with the union and company blaming each other for the failure to reach a deal. SWR managing director Andy Mellors said the company was running more than half its normal services due to the strike action.He said there had been further disruption on Monday morning after police had to board a train in Woking due to an incident unrelated to the industrial action. Mellors told the PA news agency: We are running over half of our services today, so clearly there is potential for some customers to have trains that are busier than usual. But we are here at Waterloo station and passengers are moving freely. Steve Hedley, RMT s assistant general secretary, said about 900 union members were striking across the SWR network on Monday. About 30 union members formed a picket line outside Waterloo station in London next to a large banner that read: Keep the guard on South Western Rail. This strike is all about safety. Digital signs at the station also warned passengers that travel would be difficult during the festive period due to the strikes and that SWR would be running an amended timetable. Hedley said he hoped the union and SWR could reach an agreement over the issue of train guards.

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