South Western Railway strike: delays as action begins during works

Aamna Mohdin
Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Passengers are facing travel problems this weekend as engineering works take place during a strike over rail workers’ long-running dispute regarding guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway (SWR) walked out on Saturday for the sixth time since last Monday as part of 27 days of industrial action.

Hundreds of guards and a small number of drivers will not clock on for work until Christmas, apart from on election day on 12 December, in a bitter row over the role and responsibilities of onboard train crew.

Related: Rail commuters bemoan crowding as South Western begins month of strikes

The SWR line is one of the busiest commuter routes in the country, used by about 600,000 passengers daily. Picket lines were again mounted outside stations across the SWR network, disrupting one of the busiest shopping weekends before Christmas.

Many services were cancelled or replaced by buses and those that were running were expected to be much busier than normal.

The RMT says the dispute is focused on whether guards should have a few seconds to make sure trains leave platforms safely.

Andy Mellors, managing director of SWR, said in a letter that further talks must be on the proviso that the union had a new solution on safely delivering at least 10m more peak-time passenger journeys on time each year.

An RMT spokesman said: “The union will continue to push for a negotiated settlement that protects passenger safety and our members remain rock-solid in the ongoing action.

“We are bitterly disappointed that the company are throwing obstacles in the way of a settlement, which is about nothing more than three seconds’ extra time on the dispatch process in the interests of safety.”

Engineering work caused a number of line closures, including between Bournemouth and Poole, as well as in the Twickenham area, and between London Waterloo and Kingston. All lines in the Leatherhead area will be closed all day on Sunday for maintenance work.

Earlier on Saturday morning, the M25 was partially reopened after a crane overturned and crashed across both sides of the carriageway.

The incident took place at junction 27 with the M11 in Essex at about 5.30pm on Friday. Highways England said: “The clockwise side has been reopened with a lane three closure in place whilst the central reservation is repaired.”