The 27-day strike by the British rail workers of the South Western Railway (SWR) entered its third day on Wednesday, Dec. 4, causing hardship to an estimated 16 million commuters, including those in London. The unprecedented industrial strike has set aside 850 SWR trains on one of the country's busiest rail networks.
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. The strike comes after talks between the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and SWR over a long-running dispute over guards on trains broke down. The union has been demanding that guards should oversee the operation of doors and perform other safety functions in dispatching trains.
The company's proposals would leave guards as "glorified porters" without any safety responsibilities, the union added. Managing director of SWR Andy Mellors said the action was "unnecessary" but the issue needed to be settled before a new fleet of modern suburban trains is introduced next year.
"We've been very clear that we're committed to keeping a guard on our trains and those guards will have safety-critical competencies. Our proposals will make guards more customer-facing and improve safety, security and accessibility," Mellors said.
Passengers freezing in cold
However, frustrated passengers on freezing cold platforms took to Twitter on Monday and Tuesday to complain about overcrowding, cancellations, and delays. It was reported that SWR has announced revised timetables and replacement buses at certain stations in order to facilitate easier transit for passengers. A tweet from the SWR help page reads:
Despite revised schedules, SWR services seem to have been marred by complaints of delays and overcrowding. Most of the passengers affected by this are people who are trying to commute to the work place. They took to Twitter to express their disdain and one of the affected passenger wrote:
Another passenger criticised SWR for causing inconvenience, especially to professionals such as doctors, teachers, and nurses who are finding it difficult to get to work: