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More rail workers vote in favour of strikes over guards on trains issue

RMT union members at South Western Railway backed walkouts by 4-1 on a turnout of 76%.

Workers on South Western Railway have voted heavily in favour of striking in the dispute over the role of guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union backed walkouts by 4-1 on a turnout of 76%, well above the 50% threshold in the Trade Union Act.

The company only took over from South West Trains in August, running services to and from London Waterloo.

It is now the fifth rail operator to be embroiled in a dispute over the role of guards and driver-only trains.

RMT members at Southern, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Greater Anglia were said to be “solidly supporting” a 24-hour strike on Tuesday over the same issue, with another stoppage due on Thursday.

Picket lines were mounted outside stations, including in Manchester, where the Conservative Party conference is being held.

The new ballot result followed claims by the RMT that SWR franchise holder First/MTR had failed to give “cast-iron assurances” over the future of guards on its trains.

Union general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has given repeated opportunities for First/MTR to give us the assurances we have sought over the future role of the guards on their trains throughout the length of the new South Western franchise.

“They have refused to give us those guarantees and it is that failure which left RMT with no option but to declare a formal dispute with the company and to conduct a ballot for action.

“Our members have now voted overwhelmingly for both strike action and action short of a strike and that massive mandate will now be considered by RMT’s executive, who will decide the next steps.

“This dispute can be easily resolved if the company are prepared to stick to existing agreements, give staff and passengers alike a guarantee of a second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services and an assurance that safety and access are the absolute priority.”

The RMT has written to Prime Minister Theresa May, accusing her of “sabotaging” negotiations aimed at resolving the disputes.

The Merseyrail strike coincided with improvement work at Liverpool Lime Street station.

Merseyrail managing director Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde said: “At a time when passenger journeys are temporarily restricted due to these important investment works, the RMT has now targeted these as an opportunity to double up the inconvenience for passengers by staging two further strikes.

“So while the industry and key players in the city region work hard to improve the railway, the RMT seems to be doing everything in its power to stop it.”

Greater Anglia is planning to run a full service on the strike days and Southern said there will be a normal service on most of its routes.

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(PA graphics)

Arriva Rail North aims to run around 1,200 services across the North – 46% of its normal timetable – on both days between 7am and 7pm.

Most Merseyrail services will run between 7am and 7pm, with a break during the middle of the day, and some stations will be closed.

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