Mass rail strikes set to spread as South Western Railway faces walkout over the role of the guard

Rebecca Smith
The RMT is in dispute with train operators over the role of the guard
The RMT is in dispute with train operators over the role of the guard (Source: Getty)

Workers on South Western Railway have voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over the role of guards on trains, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced today.

The RMT said in August that workers including guards and drivers on the new franchise would vote on whether to strike, after the union said it wanted a guarantee of a "second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services".

SWR, which was taken over by FirstGroup and Hong Kong company MTR on 20 August, had called the row unnecessary, saying it planned to bring more drivers and guards onto its trains.

Read more: Everything you need to know about today's rail strikes

Today, Mick Cash, RMT's general secretary, said: "RMT has given repeated opportunities for First MTR to give us the assurances we have sought over the future role of the guards on their trains throughout the length of the new South Western franchise. They have refused to give us those guarantees and it is that failure which left RMT with no option but to declare a formal dispute with the company and to conduct a ballot for action."

The union, which has not yet announced dates for strike action, said it remained available for talks.

On its first full day of service, the franchise holder faced its first row with the RMT with the union holding protests about the role of the guard.

The RMT has been in dispute with a range of train operators over the role of the guard and so-called driver only operation, with a spate of industrial action today across Southern rail, Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and Arriva Rail North.

Another walkout is planned for Thursday 5 October, the same day as a Tube strike planned on the London Underground in a row over working conditions.

Read more: South Western price cap offer by FirstGroup and MTR accepted by CMA

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