The largest rail strike in UK history is planned for December - this is what it means for Christmas travellers

Rail workers at South Western Railway (SWR) have announced that they are to go on strike for the majority of December, potentially causing chaos for Christmas travellers.

The strike is over a row about guards on the trains and will see staff walk out from 2 December 2019 until 2 January 2020, only returning to work on the day of the General Election.

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While the strike is not technically taking place on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, the company does not run services on those dates.

The RMT union cited SWR’s “unremitting failure to give assurances that their new operational model won’t move to Driver Controlled Operation – with the role of the guard butchered completely” and said, “The union has been left with no alternative but to call further industrial action.”

When will the strikes take place?

Workers will walk out from midnight on Monday 2 December until midnight on Wednesday 11 December.

They will then go on strike again from midnight on Friday 13 December until midnight on Tuesday 24 December.

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The third strike action will take place from Friday 27 December until Wednesday 1 January 2020.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “Our members have been left with no choice but to call a further 27 days of strike action on South Western Railway.

“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.

“I want to congratulate our members on their continued resolve in their fight for safety and the role of the guard on SWR. It is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been agreed. ‘The union remains available for talks.”

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Which trains will be affected?

Nearly 600,000 passengers travel on South Western Railway services every day, which go from London Waterloo to locations such as Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall.

Should it go ahead as planned, the strike will be the longest of its kind in UK history.

Major stations, including London Paddington and King’s Cross, will also be closed for engineering works during parts of the festive period, as Network Rail carries out 386 maintenance projects. Great Western Railway, Heathrow Express and TfL Rail services will be affected by the works.

The majority of this work will be carried out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when the stations will be closed.