Rail commuters in Eastleigh face 48 hours of disruption starting today as Conductors on South Western Railway (SWR) take industrial action – a move the town’s MP has described as “political.”
The striking conductors joins members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union from five of the UK’s rail operators in the dispute over driver-only operated (DOO) trains, also known as driver-controlled operated (DCO).
But SWR, which took over the franchise from South West Trains in August, say they plan to run more than 60% of services, and have published a temporary timetable including replacement buses .
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said:
“The independent rail regulator has said driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for more than 30 years, are safe.”
In a statement RMT General Secretary Mick Cash insisted that lack of staff on stations and trains will put vulnerable passengers at risk:
“We have already had concerns raised with us that de-staffing trains – especially when there are already so many unstaffed stations – will increase the risk of crime and anti-social behavior.
“Now we know that 140 – or seven out of ten – of South Western Railway’s stations are unstaffed and that the company’s own existing policy for protecting disabled and older people recognizes this by guaranteeing a second member of staff on all and every train to help passengers on and off the train and also provided assistance when they are on the train.
“It is a scandal that under Chris Grayling, plans for South Western protection for disabled and older people will be ripped up as there will no longer be the guarantee of a guard and instead the profits of the company will take priory over the needs of the most vulnerable in our society”
Eastleigh’s MP Mims Davies has accused the union of having a political agenda describing passengers as “pawns” saying:
“We know the rhetoric that has been used by those at the very top of this union, stating their blind sighted ambition to bring down this Government, with no care for their own members, nor my constituents, who this union continues to use as pawns in its political chess game.”