More rail disruption as workers strike again in guards' dispute

Rail passengers face fresh travel disruption on Saturday because of another strike in the bitter dispute over the role of guards on trains.

South Western Railway (SWR) services will be hit by the 24-hour walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, with more stoppages planned in the coming weeks.

Passengers are advised to check before they travel because some services will be cancelled, reduced or re-timed, although SWR said it will run more trains than during previous industrial action.

Rail replacement buses will run on some routes but there will be no service on parts of the network.

A war of words is raging between the two sides, with the train company insisting it has offered a similar deal to one accepted at another operator, while the union has accused SWR of "sabotaging" talks.

An SWR spokesman said: "It is extremely disappointing that the RMT has yet again chosen to needlessly inconvenience our customers, and its own members, across our network.

"We are committed to resolving this dispute and earlier this week met with the RMT at Acas, reiterating our proposed framework agreement which centres around how we can better keep our customers moving during times of disruption.

"Despite the RMT agreeing to a similar deal with another train operator just a few weeks ago, the union has failed to explain to us, their members or our customers why such a deal is not acceptable on our network.

"The RMT executive's answer to every question is strike - they need to start accepting that the railway is modernising and that their members can play a key part in that future if only they stop calling for action and work with us to deliver a better railway for our customers.

"This decision is totally unnecessary and pointless. We cannot make it any clearer that our plans mean more not fewer guards, we have guaranteed to roster a second person on all our trains and we have guaranteed terms and conditions.

"We will continue to do everything we can to minimise disruption to passengers while the RMT persists with these unnecessary strikes."

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT is angry and frustrated that the company's cavalier and contemptuous approach to talks leaves us no option but to continue our programme of industrial action. We know that passengers will share that anger.

"This week SWR have benefited from a fares windfall that will pump up their profits. They have plenty of money to employ guards on their trains and to sign off the guard guarantee the union has achieved elsewhere.

"South Western Railway seem to think they can treat the union and their staff with utter contempt. They need to change that attitude, get serious and put a team in place that can talk with us with authority on the safety, security and access issues at the heart of this dispute."

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