Rail workers vote to continue strike action over guards dispute

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

Workers on South Western Railway have voted to continue taking strike action in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union backed more walkouts by 416, with 88 voting against.

A bigger majority voted to take other forms of industrial action – the sixth time the union has balloted its members on SWR over the issue because of industrial action legislation.

The turnout was 59%, well above the legal threshold for industrial action ballots.

The union has held dozens of strikes over the past two years, including 27 in December and on New Year’s Day, which caused travel misery for passengers.

A spokesman for South Western Railway said: “We are obviously disappointed with the result, although it should be noted that less than half of eligible RMT members voted for strike action.

“On this basis we hope the RMT will use the next few weeks as a window of opportunity to work with us to find a solution so that our passengers do not suffer more unnecessary disruption.

“Similar proposals to the ones we have made are already in place with numerous operators across London and the South East, and we have already promised that we will keep guards with a safety critical role on all our trains.”

The RMT made no immediate comment on the ballot result and has not announced any fresh strikes.

Hopes had risen earlier this month of talks to try to break the deadlock, but the two sides have not met since last year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday that SWR’s franchise was now “not sustainable” after the company announced a £137 million loss.

He outlined possible contingency measures including a short-term contract to SWR’s owners or moving its operations to the Department for Transport.