I want to say sorry for what I know has been a challenging week for everyone. While we’ve run as many services as we can, I know that trains, particularly at peak time, have been crowded and uncomfortable. Thanks to the efforts of our volunteer contingency guards, and guards who reported for work despite the strikes, we’ve been able to run just over half of our normal services. While this has allowed us to keep you moving I realise it’s not what you expect or deserve, and for that I am sorry.
We’d hoped that we had saved you from further strikes when we offered the RMT union a framework agreement in February; which offered them the guarantee of a guard on every train if they agreed to work with us to develop a method of operation for our major new suburban fleet - which would allow us to deliver better performance for our customers. We thought discussions had been going well, and we had further dates in the diary, when the RMT announced this week’s strikes.
Despite this we have continued to try and persuade the RMT to come back to the table and work with us to find a solution that avoids future strike action impacting on you. Even while planning our strike timetable we met the RMT, and then wrote to them, offering new dates for talks. We have yet to receive a response.
I recognise that the current position may seem very confusing with the RMT continually referring to us removing the guard from our trains. This is not what we want to do. It is never what we wanted to do. The debate now is not around whether a guard is on the train, but what that guard does on the train. Modern trains can be operated in a number of ways, and what we have been trying to work through with the union is which method is best for our customers in terms of performance, safety and service.
We are committed to the role of the guard, we have over 70 more guards now than when we took over the franchise. What we want is for the union to work with us to help develop that role for the future in a way that benefits everyone.
South Western Railway