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Commuter chaos and travel misery as 27-day South Western Railway strike begins today

Commuter chaos and travel misery as 27-day South Western Railway strike begins today

A month of travel misery has begun for commuters this morning as they battle the first of a record-breaking 27-day strike.    The unprecedented 27-day industrial action means 850 South Western Railway trains will be cancelled every day on one of the country’s busiest rail networks.  The action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT)

A month of travel misery has begun for commuters this morning as they battle the first of a record-breaking 27-day strike.   

The unprecedented 27-day industrial action means 850 South Western Railway trains will be cancelled every day on one of the country’s busiest rail networks. 

The action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) is already causing chaos for an estimated 16million passengers this morning.

Frustrated passengers stood on freezing cold platforms took to Twitter in the early hours to complain about overcrowding, cancellations and delays.

One person at Motspur Park Station in south London wrote: ‘Freezing cold outside & the waiting room is closed. Adding the train strike of SW trains, more misery tot he working class people trying to make it to work.’ 

Another tweeted: ‘Day one of the SW Railway strike, 6.30am. Already huge delays to few trains running, massive overcrowding & ‘signal failure.

‘This just isn’t sustainable for a month. The franchise should be taken away from them.’  

Miserable commuters are pictured on board a crowded South Western Railway train heading for London Waterloo on the first of a 27-day strike

Miserable commuters are pictured on board a crowded South Western Railway train heading for London Waterloo on the first of a 27-day strike 

A busy London Waterloo is pictured this morning as trains begin to arrive crowded and delayed

A busy London Waterloo is pictured this morning as trains begin to arrive crowded and delayed

The RMT walkout to cause chaos in London, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. Major engineering works this Christmas in London, the South East and Liverpool are set to lead to fresh misery

The RMT walkout to cause chaos in London, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. Major engineering works this Christmas in London, the South East and Liverpool are set to lead to fresh misery

A crowded platform is pictured on day one of the South Western Rail strike

Guildford station is pictured packed before sunrise

Crowded platforms are pictured on day one of the South Western Railway strike 

Frustrated passengers took to Twitter in the early hours to complain about cancellations and delays

Frustrated passengers took to Twitter in the early hours to complain about cancellations and delays

SWR runs 1,850 trains a day across London, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon. 

It serves London Waterloo, Britain’s busiest station.

Some commuters bemoaned ‘rude’ staff at London Waterloo, arguing staff cannot expect those affected to ‘stay calm and behave’. 

Several others expressed their exasperation at fares going up in January after what plans to be a month of chaos. 

This morning’s disruption has been worsened by a track circuit failure which hit services between Reading and Ascot, meaning fewer trains were able to run on all lines. The problem is expected to hit services until midday. 

Yesterday commuters were warned to brace themselves for chaos. Key services are being reduced in frequency, some replaced with buses and others cancelled entirely.

The RMT has amassed a £42million war chest to help the 800 train guards taking part in the walkout, which is being held over the threat of driver-only trains.

Some guards could be supported with one-off payments of £1,700 to £2,000, it has been claimed.

Passengers are pictured freezing waiting for delayed trains in Winchester, Hampshire

Passengers are pictured freezing waiting for delayed trains in Winchester, Hampshire 

Others had a more light-hearted approach by posting memes like this one

Others had a more light-hearted approach by posting memes like this one 

Members of the RMT are pictured outside Waterloo claiming 'the strike is all about safety'

Members of the RMT are pictured outside Waterloo claiming ‘the strike is all about safety’ 

A South Western Railway map shows the extent of the strikes and how they will affect commuters

A South Western Railway map shows the extent of the strikes and how they will affect commuters

Crowds building up due to a reduced service because of an earlier strike by RMT staff on SW Railway Trains in June this year

Crowds building up due to a reduced service because of an earlier strike by RMT staff on SW Railway Trains in June this year 

Many of the ringleaders have close links to Jeremy Corbyn. They include the RMT’s Wessex regional officer, Mick Tosh, who says he has known the Labour leader for 25 years. 

In all, the RMT has donated £130,700 to Labour since 2016, according to the union’s accounts. Last month Labour vowed to fulfil the RMT’s demands by scrapping driver-only trains and putting a guard on every service in the country.

They are also being supported by Labour’s transport spokesman, Andy McDonald, a close Corbyn ally, who said yesterday that he would have ‘no difficulty whatsoever’ joining SWR workers on the picket line.

How major works will affect Christmas plans 

The worst-hit stations will be in London, the South East and Liverpool, where major work is being completed.

Here is the list of stations affected and the dates on which disruption will hit passengers: 

Ashford –  No Southeastern Highspeed and Eurostar trains from December 26 to 29

Clapham Junction – All routes to London Victoria closed from December 25 to December 31  

Liverpool Lime Street – Reduced services to and from the station, with many trains on diversions

London Euston – Reduced service on most routes  

London King’s Cross – Limited trains on December 27

London Liverpool Street – Lines closed over the Christmas period 

London Paddington – Closed between December 24 and 27 in addition to the usual Christmas and Boxing Day closures 

London St Pancras International – Reduced services and buses between Bedford and Kettering 

London Victoria – No journeys to Clapham Junction from Christmas to New Year 

Stratford, East London – Journeys to the City closed over the Christmas period

Guards will strike every day this month except for December 12 – the day of the election – and Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when trains don’t run anyway. 

Central to the row are fears over SWR’s new fleet of 90 Aventra commuter trains. Guards argue that drivers will be given sole responsibility for closing doors and dispatching the new trains.

SWR had promised to keep the guards on trains by moving them to customer-facing roles – but the RMT says this poses a safety risk to passengers.

This is despite assurances from the rail watchdog that driver-only controls are safe. 

A ‘verbal agreement’ was made to call off the strike after two days of talks last week. But the deal was rejected by the union’s ruling executive.

SWR has published an emergency timetable for December. 

It shows that 1,000 out of 1,850 weekday trains are expected to run. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety critical role of the guard have been kicked back in our faces.’

An SWR spokesman said: ‘We have done everything we can and more to meet the RMT’s outdated demands with our promise of a guard on every train and a safety critical role for that guard.

‘What we are not prepared to compromise on is the much-needed modernisation of the service with improved performance, safety and customer service that our new fleet of trains will deliver.’

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘This strike from the militant RMT is a taste of things to come if Corbyn takes power.’

A terrifying glimpse of Corbynomics: rail strike is a chilling reminder of how UK could look under Jeremy Corbyn, writes LEO MCKINSTRY  

Commuters stranded on strike-hit railway stations this morning will be furious. As victims of yet another stoppage by train drivers – this time a time a cynical 27-day walk-out at South Western Railway – they will vent their anger not just at the overweening greed and obduracy of the RMT union but also at the train companies and the Government for their failure to keep the country moving.

No one should underestimate the misery and frustration this stoppage – the longest train strike in British history – will cause, nor the threats to the well-being and livelihoods of individuals affected.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers face a restricted timetable between Waterloo and the Home Counties that will last right up until Christmas and beyond.

To make matters worse, last week it was announced that train fares would go up by an average of 2.7 per cent, adding £100 to the annual travel bill of long-distance commuters. As the commuter campaign group SWR Fightback said: ‘It illustrates the disdain passengers are held in. For the announcement to come as we are bracing for a month of rail misery adds insult to injury.’

To make matters worse, last week it was announced that train fares would go up by an average of 2.7 per cent (stock image of someone buying tickets

To make matters worse, last week it was announced that train fares would go up by an average of 2.7 per cent (stock image of someone buying tickets

The reputation of our railways is in tatters, and angry commuters understandably lay some of the blame on the Government, which quickly needs to sort out the problem in conjunction with the train companies. But the real villain of the piece is the RMT which is behaving – as always – with grotesque disregard for passengers. It is also guilty of bare-faced hypocrisy.

Jeremy Corbyn’s relish for class war and confrontation is matched by a growing mood of militancy in some of our vital public services (Corbyn pictured above in Whitby)

Jeremy Corbyn’s relish for class war and confrontation is matched by a growing mood of militancy in some of our vital public services (Corbyn pictured above in Whitby)

The walkout is over the union’s concerns with the introduction a fleet of 90 trains in which train guards will lose responsibility for operating the doors, leaving them more time to deal with passengers.

The RMT, representing the guards, claims this new arrangement poses a safety risk. Yet it has already agreed to an almost identical change on the Greater Anglia network next year, and to similar conditions on Crossrail, the new line through London, when it finally opens in 2021.

But the union’s insidious behaviour is not an isolated incident. The truth is that, as the spectre of a hard-Left Labour government looms over Britain, trade unions are beginning to flex their muscles. Jeremy Corbyn’s relish for class war and confrontation is matched by a growing mood of militancy in some of our vital public services. Last week, thousands of lecturers from the University and College Union began an eight-day strike in a row about pensions and pay. Around 60 institutions are estimated to have been affected by the action.

And despite a High Court injunction barring a planned postal strike during the General Election, the Communication Workers Union is still planning to paralyse the Royal Mail in a long-running dispute over job security and employment conditions.

In recent days, there have also been walkouts by libraries and museums staff in West Yorkshire, cleaning staff at the Foreign Office, health visitors in Lincolnshire and NHS support staff in Surrey. And the airline pilots’ union is warning of yet more industrial turmoil at British Airways during the festive period.

This discontent will dramatically worsen if Corbyn is able to sneak into office. The Labour Party was established at the beginning of the 20th century to represent the trade unions in Parliament. Since then, the relationship between the two wings of the movement has always been close, as reflected in Labour’s reliance on trade union funding.

But under Corbyn, Labour has plumbed new depths of subservience through its ideological embrace of irresponsible militancy. The present Labour front bench has never encountered a strike it did not like, never seen a pay claim it did not support.

Devoid of any experience in business, the personnel of Corbyn’s team is marinated in the union movement. Corbyn himself was a far-Left organiser for the National Union of Public Employees before he entered Parliament in 1983, and the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell worked for both the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the TUC.

A Corbyn Government would make it much easier for its union allies to mount strikes because it plans to remove many of the constraints that have been imposed on them by successive governments since 1980, such as limits on picketing and requirements to reach a certain turnout in ballots for industrial action.

Labour’s manifesto openly boasts that, in office, the party will ‘remove unnecessary restrictions on industrial action’ and ‘repeal anti-trade union legislation’, ahead of a drive ‘to create new rights and freedoms for trade unions’. The scope for mayhem will be made even worse by Labour’s vast programme of nationalisation, which will undermine management, strengthen the unions, and obliterate competition.

After decades of relative harmony in the workplace, a Corbyn triumph would mean a return to the dark days of the 1970s, when the bullying trade unions held the public to ransom and inflicted colossal damage on the economy. The RMT’s action today could be just the start.



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