Strike ballot for South Western Railway staff

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South West TrainsImage copyright South West Trains

Workers on the new South Western Railway franchise are to be balloted on whether to strike in a dispute over the role of guards, the RMT says.

The union said its members had not been reassured over the future of guards.

It says it wants “a guarantee of a second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services”.

The new franchise recently took over services in the south west, including out of London Waterloo. They were formerly operated by South West Trains.

It comes after travel in and out of London Waterloo station – the UK’s busiest railway station – was disrupted for several weeks over the summer while engineering works took place, causing difficulties for thousands of travellers.

Earlier this month, the boss of South Western Railway refused to commit to protecting the role of train guards.

The union said there had been several attempts to try to get a “water-tight pledge” on the issue.

RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said the union had “no option” but to declare a formal dispute after “repeated opportunities” were given to resolve it.

Mr Cash added that the dispute could be resolved if South Western Railway were “prepared to stick to existing agreements” and ensure safety and access were the “absolute priority”.

“Guards on SWR have been hailed as ‘legends’ in company publicity material,” he said.

“It is time for First/MTR to stand by those legends and to withdraw the threat to throw them off the trains,” he added, referring to the consortium of the First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR.

The BBC has contacted South Western Railway for a comment.

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