Staff at South Western Railway – which operates the train service through Basingstoke – are to be balloted on whether to go on strike after trade union RMT declared a formal dispute with the rail operator over train guards.
RMT said today that it had not been given “clear, cast-iron assurances” over the future of guards by the franchise holder First MTR.
It will therefore commence with a ballot for strike action and action short of a strike in the form of a ban on overtime and a rest day working ban.
Guards, commercial guards and driver members on South Western Railway will be included in the ballot.
RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has given repeated opportunities for First MTR to give us the assurances we have sought over the future role of the guards on their trains throughout the length of the new South Western franchise.
“They have refused to give us those guarantees and it is that failure which leaves RMT with no option but to declare a formal dispute with the company and to move towards a ballot for action.
“This dispute can be easily resolved if the company is prepared to stick to existing agreements, give staff and passengers alike a guarantee of a second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services, and an assurance that safety and access are the absolute priority.
“RMT remains available for talks.”
The future of guards on trains has seen numerous, well-publicised strikes on Southern Rail this year, with cancellations and delays affecting thousands of commuters.
First MTR only took over the South Western Railway franchise on August 20 this year.
However in a statement, South Western Railway have said they plan to increase the number of drivers and guards, and called the ballot announcement “very premature”.
The statement read: “This dispute is unnecessary, we have made it perfectly clear that we plan to retain a second person on our services as we know that our passengers value the assurance and assistance a second member of on-board staff provides.
“During our franchise we will increase the numbers of drivers and guards so we can deliver more services for passengers.
“We look forward to talking with our teams and the trade unions about how we can work together to deliver the best possible service for passengers.
“In fact we already have a meeting in the diary with the RMT, which makes this announcement very premature.”