A FOUR-DAY train strike will start today (Friday) after the RMT union and South Western Railway failed to make progress in their dispute.
Passengers on the network, which includes the line through the New Forest and the Lymington branchline, will face a reduced service during the industrial action when the Bournemouth Air Show is one of the weekend’s main events.
The long-running argument is over the future of train guards, with both sides blaming the other for the failure to reach agreement.
SWR claimed it had agreed to meet the RMT’s desire to keep a guard on every train. But the union said that since then the company has refused to give the long-term assurances it wants.
Over the four days just over half of normal service will be provided, according to SWR, which urged passengers to check times before travelling.
On the Lymington branchline today and tomorrow, SWR said two trains an hour will run between 8am and 7pm, with none at all between 1pm and 2pm. On Sunday and Monday there will be a reduced service of two trains per hour.
Connections to London Waterloo will be reduced and vary over the four days, with services including an hourly fast train between Bournemouth and the capital, an hourly train shuttle service between Bournemouth and Weymouth, and an hourly ‘stopper’ train between Southampton Central and Bournemouth.
An SWR spokesperson said: “We are struggling to comprehend what this endless strike action is really all about. The RMT seems intent on ploughing on full steam ahead with more strikes, showing little regard for our customers or the communities we serve.
“The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement. We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard fuelling fears amongst our members of a stitch-up.
“It is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been agreed. This has left us with no option but to go ahead with further strike action exactly as planned.”
For train details during the strike, go to www.southwesternrailway.com.