Hundreds of thousands of commuters face a month of chaos as union barons launch the longest strike in the history of British railways.
The unprecedented 27-day action will see 850 services cancelled every day on South Western Railway (SWR), one of the country’s busiest operators.
The action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will cause misery for an estimated 16million passengers at one of the busiest times of the year.
SWR runs 1,850 trains a day across London, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon.
The RMT walkout to cause chaos in London, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. Major engineering works this Christmas in London, the South East and Liverpool are set to lead to fresh misery
Crowds building up due to a reduced service because of an earlier strike by RMT staff on SW Railway Trains in June this year
It serves London Waterloo, Britain’s busiest station.
Commuters have been warned to brace themselves for chaos. Key services will be reduced in frequency, some replaced with buses and others cancelled entirely.
The RMT has amassed a £42million war chest to help the 800 train guards taking part in the walkout, which is being held over the threat of driver-only trains.
Some guards could be supported with one-off payments of £1,700 to £2,000, it has been claimed.
Workers on South Western Railway are set to strike for 27 days in December (file picture)
Many of the ringleaders have close links to Jeremy Corbyn. They include the RMT’s Wessex regional officer, Mick Tosh, who says he has known the Labour leader for 25 years. In all, the RMT has donated £130,700 to Labour since 2016, according to the union’s accounts. Last month Labour vowed to fulfil the RMT’s demands by scrapping driver-only trains and putting a guard on every service in the country.
They are also being supported by Labour’s transport spokesman, Andy McDonald, a close Corbyn ally, who said yesterday that he would have ‘no difficulty whatsoever’ joining SWR workers on the picket line.
The worst-hit stations will be in London, the South East and Liverpool, where major work is being completed.
Here is the list of stations affected and the dates on which disruption will hit passengers:
Ashford - No Southeastern Highspeed and Eurostar trains from December 26 to 29
Clapham Junction - All routes to London Victoria closed from December 25 to December 31
Liverpool Lime Street - Reduced services to and from the station, with many trains on diversions
London Euston - Reduced service on most routes
London King's Cross - Limited trains on December 27
London Liverpool Street - Lines closed over the Christmas period
London Paddington - Closed between December 24 and 27 in addition to the usual Christmas and Boxing Day closures
London St Pancras International - Reduced services and buses between Bedford and Kettering
London Victoria - No journeys to Clapham Junction from Christmas to New Year
Stratford, East London - Journeys to the City closed over the Christmas period
Guards will strike every day this month except for December 12 – the day of the election – and Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when trains don’t run anyway. Central to the row are fears over SWR’s new fleet of 90 Aventra commuter trains. Guards argue that drivers will be given sole responsibility for closing doors and dispatching the new trains.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
SWR had promised to keep the guards on trains by moving them to customer-facing roles – but the RMT says this poses a safety risk to passengers.
This is despite assurances from the rail watchdog that driver-only controls are safe. A ‘verbal agreement’ was made to call off the strike after two days of talks last week. But the deal was rejected by the union’s ruling executive.
SWR has published an emergency timetable for December. It shows that 1,000 out of 1,850 weekday trains are expected to run. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety critical role of the guard have been kicked back in our faces.’
An SWR spokesman said: ‘We have done everything we can and more to meet the RMT’s outdated demands with our promise of a guard on every train and a safety critical role for that guard.
‘What we are not prepared to compromise on is the much-needed modernisation of the service with improved performance, safety and customer service that our new fleet of trains will deliver.’
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘This strike from the militant RMT is a taste of things to come if Corbyn takes power.’