Rail union RMT has announced 27 days of strike action affecting South Western Railway (SWR) services throughout December in a long-running dispute over the role of guards.

The union has instructed members employed by SWR not to book on for duty from 0001 on Monday, 2 December until 2359 on Wednesday, 11 December, again between 0001 on Friday, 13 December and 2359 Tuesday, 24 December, and finally from 0001 on Friday, 27 December until 2359 on Wednesday, 1 January.

RMT claims SWR’s “unremitting failure to give assurances that their new operational model won’t move to Driver Controlled Operation” forced it to call further industrial action. It says putting such practices in place could cause a risk to the safety of passengers.

It said the company has “dangled a potential breakthrough deal in front of the union and then failed to honour it, offering no reasons for the delay”.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “At the last meeting we held with SWR principles in agreements were made in good faith with the company’s negotiating team and we now feel hugely let down again. As long as the company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard we will remain in dispute.”

A spokesperson for South Western Railway commented: “We are extremely disappointed that the RMT union has once again called for their members to take disruptive industrial action. The deliberate targeting of services up to, and during, the Christmas period is typical of the lack of concern the RMT continue to have for our customers.

“The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train. That is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement if the RMT work with us to agree a method of operation for our new trains which fully utilises the new technology to improve safety, security and accessibility as well as day-to-day performance. Instead the RMT appear purely focused on keeping control of train doors in a misguided attempt to hold power over the industry.

“Whilst we have shown commitment to the role of the guard by introducing over 80 additional guard roles since the start of our franchise, the RMT do not have the long-term interests of either our customers or our colleagues, including their members, at the heart of their actions.

“We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone. We will do everything we can to keep customers moving during strike action.”

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