Trains back on track – for now

After five days of disruption, trains running to and from Honiton Railway Station are returning to normal. 

Members of the rail union RMT staged strike action from Tuesday to Saturday inclusive in a row over the future role of guards on South Western Railway trains.

The company currently employs around 900 guards with an additional 61 in training. A strike ballot saw 425 voting for action. A total of 753 guards are members of the union.

Andy Mellors, managing director of South Western Railway, said in a statement that the industrial action had been “challenging”. He explained South Western Railway is committed to the role of the guard and that the company has 70 more guards than when it first took over the franchise.

“While we’ve run as many services as we can, I know that trains, particularly at peak time, have been crowded and uncomfortable. Thanks to the efforts of our volunteer contingency guards, and guards who reported for work despite the strikes, we’ve been able to run just over half of our normal services,” he said.

Mr Mellors added: “While this has allowed us to keep you moving I realise it’s not what you expect or deserve, and for that I am sorry.

“We’d hoped that we had saved you from further strikes when we offered the RMT union a framework agreement in February; which offered them the guarantee of a guard on every train if they agreed to work with us to develop a method of operation for our major new suburban fleet – which would allow us to deliver better performance for our customers.

“We thought discussions had been going well, and we had further dates in the diary, when the RMT announced this week’s strikes. Despite this we have continued to try and persuade the RMT to come back to the table and work with us to find a solution that avoids future strike action impacting on you. Even while planning our strike timetable we met the RMT, and then wrote to them, offering new dates for talks. We have yet to receive a response.”

Meanwhile, the RMT said strike action had been “solid and determined”. It accused the train operator of doing nothing to resolve the core issues at the heart of the dispute

General secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members on SWR have once again proved their resilience and determination throughout this week’s action and it’s ‎now time for the company to get out of the bunker, stop stalling and start talking seriously with the this trade union about safe methods of operation that respect the crucial role of the guard on their trains.

“I am making it clear that if we have to put on further action in the cause of rail safety then that is what we will do. The ball is in the company’s court and it’s about time they started putting the safety of the travelling public before their own private profits.”

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