SWR, which runs services in London and Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, the Isle of Wight and Somerset, has been locked in a dispute with the RMT (The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) since November 2017.
The current strike started on Friday and is due to come to an end tomorrow (Monday) evening. The walkout of hundreds of guards will disrupt services that carry more than 100,000 passengers a day.
The dispute is over the role of guards on trains. The RMT wants operators to guarantee a second member of staff on services.
Southern wants to bring in driver-only-operated (DOO) trains where the driver, rather than the conductor, opens and closes the doors. A third of Britain’s services already work this way. A system that has been around for 30 years and the rail safety regulator says it’s safe. The whole London tube network is DOO.
Unions disagree. They say the on-board conductor/guard has a much better view of the doors and can stop people getting trapped. Drivers state that the view in the driver’s cab on some of the older trains isn’t good, especially at some stations. Tube trains are different because they have much better cameras, both on the train and at the end of the platform.
The union claimed SWR is set to receive a ‘bailout’ from the Government worth millions of pounds because of the lost fares as a result of industrial action. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Passengers will be outraged to know that South Western Railway will be paid by ministers even when they don’t run trains on strike days. Thanks to the generosity of the Government, South Western Railway don’t lose a penny from strikes and therefore have little incentive to negotiate seriously.”
A spokesman for SWR has stated “‘The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train, which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement. We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.”
At the start of SWR’s last strike in June, commuters described their journeys as “utter madness” and a “total mess”.