PASSENGERS across the south are facing eight days of summer rail misery - starting today - in a long-running row over driver-only trains.

South Western Railway is facing a series of walk-outs by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union over the role of guards on trains.

It follows the recent deal between the union and another rail operator, Greater Anglia which - according to the RMT - guarantees a guard on services.

In a separate development, South Western Railway’s franchise is set to be renegotiated after less than a year following its decision to scrap proposed improvements to the timetable.

The company is planning to run two-thirds of its normal services today.

A spokesman said: “Although we have done everything that we can to minimise the impact of the strike on customers, some services will be cancelled or delayed and others will be busier than usual.”

More strikes are due to take place on July 28, July 31, August 4, August 11, and August 18, and a 48-hour walk-out is planned for August 31 and September 1.

Passengers are facing a reduced service on lines across the south, including the Weymouth to London Waterloo route.

A South Western Railway spokesman said: “We have been engaged in on-going talks with the RMT and are surprised and disappointed that it has decided to call further strikes, especially at a time when families want to be out and about enjoying the summer holidays.

“We will continue to seek a resolution and work hard to minimise any disruption to our customers.”

But the RMT defended its decision to call a series of walk-outs.

Mick Cash, the union’s general secretary, said: “The RMT is making a very simple request of South Western Railway - that they take note of what’s going on elsewhere in the rail industry and come forward with serious proposals that give a cast-iron guarantee of guards on their services.

“It’s the RMT’s firm belief that a deal can be done and an agreement reached like we have with other train operating companies.”

Jeremy Varns of SWR Watch called for the government to intervene in the dispute. He also said it was time to address wider staffing issues.

“Most trains can be safely operated by a driver only. There is, however, a compelling case for ensuring all stations are staffed throughout the hours of service.”


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