Services on South Western Railway (SWR) have been disrupted for a fourth consecutive day on Monday as the dispute between the firm and the RMT union over the role of guards shows no signs of resolution.
SWR, which runs services from Waterloo to suburban stations and the South West, said it was running just over half our normal timetabled service over the course of the four days.
An SWR train at London Waterloo
In a statement, it said: ‘The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement. We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.
‘We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone.’
However, SWR declined to clarify what exactly ‘as part of a framework agreement’ means or whether it is guaranteeing that it will not run trains without guards.
A spokesman for the RMT told Transport Network that the crux of the dispute is that there is no agreement on what role the gaurd would play.
The union's concern is that unless the guard is in control of the method by which trains are dispatched at the key interface between the train and the platform - that is responsible for checking the platform is clear and waving the train to start again - they could quickly become redundant.
As a consequence, while the RMT accepted ‘in principle’ the SWR’s pledge to roster a guard on every train, ‘the danger is that they will attempt to run trains without guards’, and thus make another step toward driver only operation.
In February, the RMT announced a suspension of the industrial action on the basis of a ‘significant breakthrough’ but it later claimed that SWR had refused to guarantee that it would not move to driver controlled operation (in which drivers close train doors) and had made clear that profitability was the determining factor in any future operational model.
FirstGroup, the major shareholder in SWR, has previously said that it is losing money on the franchise and has asked the Government for compensation for strike action under the terms of its contract.
The Department for Transport has previously declined to state whether it has agreed to pay such compensation, on the grounds that it is ‘commercially confidential’.
On Monday, SWR declined to confirm that it had asked the Government to keep such payments secret.