South Western Railway passengers warned not to travel as 50,000 railway workers prepare for strike action
TRAIN passengers in the New Forest and Christchurch have been told to expect "severe disruption" to services when nationwide strikes see 50,000 railway workers walk out later this month.
The RMT Union has announced industrial action by staff at South Western Railway on 21st, 23rd and 25th June, with the rail firm expecting a "significantly reduced" service across that whole week.
The walkout by 2,100 SWR union members, along with Network Rail signallers, will result in "significant parts of the network" being shut down, and customers are urged not to travel.
The union says staff have been "subjected to multi-year pay freezes", and has slammed South Western Railway – along with 13 other train operators, Network Rail and London Underground – for plans to cut thousands of jobs which they claim will make the railways "unsafe".
Claire Mann, managing director of South Western Railway, said: "I understand that the announcement of upcoming industrial action will worry many of our customers, particularly against the backdrop of significant cost of living pressures.
"We are carefully finalising contingency plans, but I’m afraid this action will mean that many customers will be unable to travel by rail.
"If customers can change their date of travel, or make alternative arrangements, I urge them to begin making those arrangements as soon as possible.
“I appreciate how challenging this may be and would like to thank customers for their patience as the rail industry responds to this unprecedented industrial action.”
The company says it is working to update hospitals, schools, airports and businesses across the network on what this will mean for them.
RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said that despite intense talks with the rail bosses, the union has been unable to secure a pay proposal or a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.
"We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11% and rising," he said.
"Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"This unfairness is fuelling our members anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.
In what the union says is the biggest dispute on the network since 1989, more than 50,000 railway workers across the country will walk out on 21st June. On 23rd and 25th June, up to 40,000 will strike.
A reduced timetable will be published when finalised. For updates go to www.southwesternrailway.com/industrial-action