Passenger safety is 'at risk' if guards are not present on trains in the South of England, according to one leading RMT union member who has been on strike today (Wednesday 10th January 2018).
Tony Perks has been telling us his reasons for joining the picket line at Basingstoke station, alongside numerous colleagues and others at stations across the South of England.
Today is the second time members have gone on strike this week, with another due to take place on Friday.
The proposals to run trains without guards on South Western Railway services - as well as others across the UK - have been called 'disastrous'.
Massive #Solidarity and determination @RMTWaterloo this morning. #FailingGrayling must go. Tory sleaze providing corporate welfare @dft for billionaire Richard Branson while slashing safety-critical railway jobs #KeepTheGuardOnTheTrain #StopDOO pic.twitter.com/tKLur6QtKw— Alex Gordon (@alexgordonrmt) January 10, 2018
Tony Perks says it's important he joins his colleagues in standing up for a fair system, as he feels lives could be at risk if things go wrong on the train:
"Guards take over if there's any problem on the train. If you take the guard away, the driver won't be able to help, he's driving the train. You can't do two jobs at once."
Paul Simper has also been striking this week. He works as a Train Guard in Hampshire - and outside Basingstoke station, he told us the situation is 'ridiculous':
"We know they're not listening to us, they just want to cut corners. We want to make sure everyone is safe - and these plans don't ensure that."
Despite coming under mounting criticism, South Western Railway's Managing Director has come back fighting, with an open letter in which he claims passengers are facing 'unnecessary pain', caused by RMT union members:
Once again I am having to write to you about impending industrial action by the RMT union. As I am sure you are aware the union executive has announced three further strikes for our network on the 8, 10 and 12 January. They have also called strikes on Northern, Greater Anglia and Merseyrail on these dates, with a single strike on the 8th for Southern. This co-ordinated action is designed to cause the maximum disruption to passengers and shows the RMT is set on causing you further unnecessary pain.
I had hoped that we could find a way to avoid further action, and indeed earlier this week I met with the General Secretary and other RMT representatives to discuss a framework we had put forward to try and resolve the dispute, which is around the new fleet of suburban trains we will start to introduce in late 2019. It reiterated our previous guarantee to roster a Guard on all our trains, with proposals that we should work together to agree arrangements to ensure passengers can still get home on the rare occasions that a Guard be unavailable at short notice and a replacement cannot be found.
When we met we discussed these proposals and the RMT’s suggested changes. Following the meeting we put forward a further framework which we hoped would address their concerns whilst still delivering benefits for you our passengers. However, I am sorry to say that the RMT has again rejected our proposals and plans to go ahead with next week’s strikes. We will once again be utilising the goodwill of our team of contingency guards to keep you moving and expect to run over 70% of our normal Monday to Friday service. By running longer trains we will provide an even higher percentage of seats. The majority of routes will see a reduced service, with buses replacing trains on a small number of routes. Details of the full service can be found below on this page.
We hope the RMT will realise that further action, which penalises both passengers and their own members, who face losing even more money, is pointless; especially when we have offered assurances around terms and conditions, job security, the need for more Guards in the future, and our guarantee to roster a Guard on all our trains. I am sorry that you are again facing strike action. We will continue to try to find a solution to this damaging and unnecessary dispute.
South Western Railway"
We've heard from both sides of the argument, but we've also been keen to find out what passengers think. Many have been facing significant disruption these past few days, along with strikes during the festive period too.
The main routes below have been affected - and there's been delays and disruption on others on the South Western Railway network too.
⚠️ Train services on the following routes to be suspended due to RMT Union strike action today.— SWR Help (@SW_Help) January 10, 2018
- Salisbury to Southampton
- Guildford to Ascot
- Virginia Water to Weybridge
Please plan your journey here https://t.co/OOz2Ofsv7d pic.twitter.com/FDqK4cl3rh
We spoke to these passengers at Basingstoke station, who said they sympathised with the concerns of workers, but told us they're fed up of having their journeys and plans scuppered by industrial action:
We'll have updates on the strike action in our news and travel bulletins.