A strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) may cause disruption for commuters on some of Britain’s busiest train routes this week.
The plans to walk out on Tuesday (18 June) have been put in place in response to the ongoing saga over South Western Railway’s “failure” to meet worker demands for a guard on each train.
The strike is planned to last five days and will affect major events such as Royal Ascot.
Why is the strike happening?
The strikes are in response to the long-running dispute between SWR and workers over the uncertain future of train guards.
Workers have previously argued that at least one guard needs to be present on all services to ensure the smooth and safe running of the trains, while SWR have been reticent to implement such measures over cost fears.
“Five days of strike action goes ahead tomorrow as company refuse to give assurances on safe operation,” said the union in a statement.
Industrial action was planned in February of this year but was suspended when the union claimed the rail company had pledged that “each passenger train shall operate with a guard with safety critical competencies”.
Despite the alleged promise, RMT now claim that SWR have “rowed back” on their word, and the future of the train guard once again looks uncertain.
“The company have not even been prepared to give assurances that their new operational model won’t move to Driver Controlled Operation with the role of the guard carved up completely,” said the union.
“In addition, the company have made it quite clear in talks with the union that the protection of their profit margins is a determining factor in their future operational model – putting profits before passenger safety.”
SWR have failed to “bolt down an agreement that matches up to our expectations on the guard guarantee,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash, adding that the union’s members are “angry and frustrated”.
“Worse than that, the company have refused to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard,” he said, and criticised SWR’s “insistence” that future schemes would be “governed” by the protection of company profits.
A spokesman for SWR told the BBC it was “very disappointing” that the union had called for the strike, despite plans for further talks between the two bodies being in place.
“Clearly, they have decided to target popular events such as Royal Ascot with this cynical action which is driven by internal RMT politics,” they said.
SWR says it has matched RMT’s request to keep a guard on each train and is keen for discussions on how to make the most of new technology on board.
When exactly is the strike happening?
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union have set out their timetable for the industrial action.
“We instruct our SWR Guard, Commercial Guard and Driver members to take industrial action by not booking on for duty between 00:01 to 23:59 hours on the following dates,” they said.
Those dates are as follows:
Tuesday 18 June 2019
Wednesday 19 June 2019
Thursday 20 June 2019
Friday 21 June 2019
Saturday 22 June 2019
Who will be affected?
The strike is due to begin on Tuesday 18 June and is planned to last for five days.
With South Western Trains operating on some of the busiest rail routes in the country and serving areas with a high population of commuters into London, a large number of travellers will be affected by the walkout – as well as Royal Ascot racegoers.
A spokesman for SWR told the BBC that passengers heading to Twickenham, Hampton Court and Royal Ascot in particular this week should allow extra time for their travel.
“Due to the nature of industrial action, please note that last minute changes may still occur,” say National Rail.
“You are advised to check again before you travel.
“If you would like to follow this incident on Twitter, please use #SWRStrike.”
To see SWR’s full network map, head to their website
This article originally appeared on our sister site, inews