South Western Railway commuters faced a challenging commute as signal failure and strikes again hit the service this week.
Major signalling failure between Woking and Surbiton meant commuters were advised not to travel as trains were cancelled, delayed or revised.
Six lines were affected including Alton, Basingstoke, Woking, Bristol, Exeter, Guildford and Portsmouth.
While the signal problem was resolved by 11am commuters were still facing delays of up to 45 minutes until Tuesday evening.
On top of the signal failure the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers started a five-day strike on Monday due to an ongoing row over driver-only trains, leading SWR to reduce weekday services by a third and halve services on Friday.
The two-year dispute concerns SWR plans to remove guards from trains with the RMT saying that this will compromise customer safety.
Mick Cash, RMT’s general secretary said: “SWR might think it’s acceptable to play fast and loose with passenger safety, security and access but RMT members, who have stood firm throughout this dispute despite appalling harassment from the company, will not accept a dilution of the safety regime on the railway.”
The five-day strike will be the longest strike against any rail operator, with previous rail strikes lasting three days.
Hampton Court commuter Emma Allden, 25, said: “I had to stay with a friend in Kingston this week as they had completely suspended services to Hampton Court.
“I don’t blame the staff for striking so much as I blame the company for being the cause of this happening so often.
“I just can’t believe they’re threatening the guard’s jobs I personally would much rather have two members of staff on a train not just the driver.”
Whilst some commuters support the RMT strike action support some passengers feel strikes are ineffective.
“The RMT is cynically targeting hard-working commuters, families trying to enjoy the half-term holidays and sports fans with its latest strike dates,” said a SWR spokesperson
“We have been seeking meaningful talks with the RMT union for months to try and resolve this dispute. We have repeated our offer of a framework for discussion to the union and await their response. In the meantime our priority is our passengers and we are, and will do everything we can to keep our customers moving and reduce disruption over the next five days.”
The strike action between the RMT and SWR has been criticised by public figures, such as Twickenham MP Vince Cable said: “The industrial action sadly comes on top of the long-standing problems of regular cancellations of too many trains, not to mention the fiasco of the timetable changes this summer.
“The RMT and South Western Railway need to put aside their differences, reach an agreement and finally ensure they put long suffering train users first.”
Photo courtesy of @ken_glendinning
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