East Devon rail travellers face more strike misery - but train company pledges to run 'more and longer' trains

PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:21 05 January 2018

Axminster Railway Station. Picture: CHRIS CARSON

Axminster Railway Station. Picture: CHRIS CARSON

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The RMT strike will affect South Western Railway services on Monday 8, Wednesday 10 and Friday 12 January but the train operator says it has plans in place to get passengers moving.

South Western Railway (SWR) has pledged to run more than 70 per cent of its normal train services on the three days that the RMT union has instructed its guards members to strike.

The RMT strike will affect services on Monday 8, Wednesday 10 and Friday 12 January but the train operator says it has plans in place to get passengers moving.

South Western Railway has announced its contingency timetable for the forthcoming RMT strike dates and is confident it will run more than 70 per cent of the normal Monday – Friday timetable.

SWR stated it will be able to lengthen trains in some areas and that there will also be rail replacement bus services on some routes and ticket acceptance agreements with other train companies.

Andy Mellors, managing director for South Western Railway, said: “We are sorry that our passengers will once again suffer due to this unnecessary strike action called by the RMT executive.

“Our passengers just want to get to work in the morning and back home on time in the evening to see family and friends.

“We have repeatedly guaranteed that no one will lose their job and that we will roster a second person on board every train, however what we have been trying to talk to the RMT about is what happens if a guard is unavailable at short notice, perhaps due to illness or disruption - and how we might keep passengers moving rather than leave them stranded.

“We are determined to provide the best possible service to our customers during next week’s strikes and will run more than 70 per cent of our normal weekday service.

“We will operate more and longer trains than on the previous weekday strikes called by the RMT.

“However, we are advising passengers to check their journey before they travel as they will find trains busier than normal and that, in some places, replacement bus services will run instead of trains.”

Details of rail replacement bus services and ticket acceptance agreements in place can be found on South Western Railway’s website and passengers are advised to check their journey before they travel.

RMT members have met with South Western Railways in a last ditch effort to broker a solution in a dispute on the role of the safety-critical guard and the extension of Driver Only Operation in the name of increased profits.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with the different train operating companies over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces and we are left with no option but to press ahead with the action exactly as planned.

“No-one should be in any doubt, these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies

“It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.

“This suspension of normal industrial relations by the employers has to end if we are to make progress towards a solution that guarantees safe rail travel for all.

“RMT is in no doubt that it is the dead hand of the minority Tory Government that is interfering in these disputes and that their influence is a factor in preventing the union from reaching negotiated settlements. With the fare increases kicking in this week it is outrageous that Theresa May and Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip-off the British passenger with eye-watering far increases to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.

“RMT is demanding that the blockade on talks is lifted in these separate disputes to allow us to negotiate freely with the companies and give us the opportunity to pursue the objective of a guard guarantee that puts British passenger safety before the rank exploitation of our rail network by fare-jacking private companies who are laughing all the way to the bank.

“If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to put safety first then it’s good enough for the rest of the UK.

“RMT stands ready for talks in each of these separate disputes.”

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