Socialist Worker

South Western Railway workers strike to keep safety on trains

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2616

Pickets outside London Waterloo

Pickets outside London Waterloo (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers on South Western Railway (SWR) walked out for 24 hours on Saturday of last week in the latest action in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.

The RMT union members are fighting against train bosses’ plans to axe the guard as the second safety-critical staff member on board trains.

It is part of a national fight against the expansion of driver?only operated (DOO) services.

A rollout of DOO will make train travel unsafe and inaccessible for many.

On these trains, the doors are controlled by the driver—not a guard or train manager. This means passengers aren’t able to get any help while on board.

It also means wheelchair users could be unable to travel as there will be no one to assist with boarding.

Workers on SWR have now taken four days of action in the latest wave of strikes.

And they are planning four more strike days later this month and in September.

Train bosses in Wales and Scotland have both reached agreements with the RMT. And other train companies are going through talks now.

SWR and Southern are the only networks where there has been no significant progress in talks.


RMT general secretary Mick Cash accused SWR bosses of playing “fast and loose” with negotiations.

“RMT has made a very simple request of South Western Railway that they take note of what is going on elsewhere in the rail industry,” he said.

“And that they take on board our serious and practical proposals that give a cast iron guarantee of guards on their services and a halt to the rolling out of Driver?Only Operation.”

The SWR strike caused a huge headache for transport bosses, with many routes cancelled, delayed or reduced.

The RMT has exposed the lengths to which bosses will go to breaking the strike. It complained of a string of safety breaches during July’s strike.

They say unskilled and poorly trained strike-breakers signalled for drivers to leave the station too early.

Other safety breaches include opening doors where there isn’t a station platform, and not assisting a wheelchair user on to the train.

It’s just a taste of the type of service passengers can expect if DOO is allowed to become the norm for trains.

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