Thousands of commuters heading to Royal Ascot this week could be hit by a major railway strike.
Five days of industrial action on South Western Railway (SWR) starting tomorrow will coincide with the opening day of the annual horse racing event, which runs until Saturday.
SWR said the strike will hit London Waterloo commuters as workers strike in a long-running dispute over the role of guards on the trains.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: “Our members have been left with no choice but to go ahead with strike action tomorrow.
“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 – a position which has undermined union confidence and sparked fears of a stitch-up.”
An SWR spokesperson described the strike as “unnecessary” and criticised the timing of the strikes to hit Royal Ascot.
“It’s very disappointing that despite having had dates in the diary for what we hoped would be further constructive talks, the RMT union decided to call disruptive strike action over the course of five days,” they said.
“Only this week, we met with the union and agreed to arrange new dates to get around the table and continue those talks. However, they seem insistent on going ahead with their unnecessary strike next week which will impact our customers and colleagues alike. Clearly, they have decided to target popular events such as Royal Ascot with this cynical action which is driven by internal RMT politics.
“Passengers are strongly advised to plan their travel in advance as services are likely to be busier than usual because of the strike action.”
SWR has organised some rail replacement services while people attending events at Twickenham, Hampton Court and Royal Ascot are advised to allow extra time for their travel.