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South Western Railway aims to keep trains moving during RMT strikes in December

South Western Railway has said it will do ‘everything possible’ to keep commuters moving if planned strikes go ahead next month.

Earlier this month the union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) announced 27 days of strike action in December and the New Year as part of a long-running dispute over train guards.

Industrial action is planned from Monday, December 2 to New Year’s Day, with scheduled breaks on December 12, for the general election, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

The train operator has now promised guards will be present on all trains and will maintain a safety critical role on all trains.

Andy Mellors, SWR's managing director, has called the strikes ‘unnecessary’ and said its promises deliver what the RMT has been asking for.

Mr Mellors said: “All we’re asking is that guards work with us to provide the modern, efficient train service customers need and want by bringing in new trains which could mean over 10 million more passenger journeys arrive on time in peak hours every year.”

But a spokesman from the RMT union said it is ‘disappointed’ with the statement.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said yesterday (Thursday) the union had attended dispute discussions for the past two days.

He added: “No proposals that would enable the development of a resolution to the dispute have been put forward by South Western Railway.

“Rather than making plans to try and break the strike action, the company would be better placed getting back round the table with the RMT with the objective of reaching a negotiated settlement that protects passenger safety on their trains.”

SWR said it is ‘working hard on detailed plans for the period of the strikes’ and said it would do everything it could to keep customers moving.

It added that, due to the ‘prolonged nature’ of the strikes, contingency guards have been allocated to services over a longer period.

All contingency guards have undertaken approved industry-standard training.

SWR expects to run more than half of its normal service from Monday to Friday, with rail replacement services in place to assist busy lines.

But it warned services will be busier than usual and added it is working to make sure tickets are accepted by other transport providers.

SWR advised customers to check its website to see the latest information before travel.

Detailed timetables will be published next week.

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