South Western Railway (SWR) have announced their plans to mitigate disruption after talks to avert strikes next month broke down today (November 21).

As the Comet reported earlier this month, a weeks-long strike is expected by SWR workers from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The workers said they plan to walk out for 27 days between December 2 and New Year's Day in protest at safety regulations on SWR trains.

On Thursday talks between workers and the private rail operators to avert the strikes ended without resolution.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said that SWR had not offered concrete solutions to workers' grievances about their own safety.

"No proposals that would enable the development of a resolution to the dispute have been put forward by SWR.

"Throughout these talks SWR have not shown any intention of moving the issues at the heart of the dispute forwards, despite verbal assurances in earlier discussions.

"It has become increasingly clear that they are not interested in reaching a settlement at this time.

"As a result of the company attitude all planned action remains on, and the union is committed to ensuring the safest possible method of operation.

"RMT will remain available for discussions with the company at any time."

A key point of contention between the workers and their employer concerns the safety of train drivers and the presence of a guard in a 'safety-critical' role on trains to accompany the driver.

This Is Local London: Chertsey Station via geographChertsey Station via geograph

In response, SWR Managing Director Andy Mellors said that a guard would "always" be on trains going forward — a key point of contention between SWR and the RMT.

"We promise that there will always be a guard on our trains. We also promise our guards will maintain a safety critical role on our trains.

"We believe that these promises deliver what the RMT has been asking for, so these strikes are unnecessary.

"All we’re asking is that guards work with us to provide the modern, efficient train service customers need and want by bringing in new trains which could mean over 10 million more passenger journeys arrive on-time in peak hours every year," Mr Mellors said.

The SWR MD added that the company planned to minimize the disruption expected by the strike action by prioritising peak-hour trains.

"The prolonged nature of the strike means that we have to allocate our contingency guards to services over a longer period.

"We expect to be running more than half of our normal Monday – Friday services, prioritising capacity and providing a similar number of peak services to previous strikes.

"But we know that during the strike action, services will be busier than usual, and we will have rail replacement services in some places and we’re working to make sure our tickets are accepted by other transport providers wherever possible," he said.