South Western strikes begin
THE first of five days of strikes has begun on South Western Railway, after new talks last week failed to reach agreement over on-train staffing and the role of guards. The walkouts have closed the Shepperton branch, and trains on the Hampton Court branch will run only when passengers will be travelling to and from a music festival, while limited services will also run for Royal Ascot. Many other services will be reduced, and buses will replace trains from a number of stations. The RMT says SWR ‘is refusing to give assurances on safe operation’, but SWR said the failure of negotiations and the start of strikes was ‘very disappointing’. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT members are standing rock solid again this morning on South Western Railway in the long-running fight for safety, security and access on our trains while the private train company sends out the signal that it is prepared to gamble with their passengers well-being in the name of profit. RMT has campaigned relentlessly for the principle of putting safety on the railway first and the current stalemate over the safety-critical role of the guard on SWR trains cannot be allowed to drag on any longer. Our members have been left with no choice.’ South Western Railway said the strikes were ‘unnecessary’. The company added: ‘It’s very disappointing that despite having had dates in the diary for what we hoped would be further constructive talks, the RMT union decided to call disruptive strike action over the course of five days. Clearly, they have decided to target popular events such as Royal Ascot with this cynical action which is driven by internal RMT politics. We remain committed to finding a solution.’
LNER Azumas start running to Skipton
LNER has introduced Hitachi Intercity Expresses on the London-Skipton route. The first ran last night, when an Azuma worked the 18:03 from London King’s Cross to Skipton. The new trains began running to Leeds and Hull on 15 May, after their introduction had been delayed by problems with electromagnetic interference which affected signals and safety-critical CCTV. Bradford was added to the Azuma network on 8 June, and LNER is preparing to start running London-Edinburgh services on 1 August. LNER managing director David Horne said: ‘The launch of the first Azuma trains to Skipton and Bradford is another step forward in our transformation of the route. The new Azuma trains are already proving popular.’ The 65 Azumas should all be in service within the next 12 months, and prospective open access operator Grand Union has announced plans to use some of LNER’s redundant Class 91 locomotives and Mk4 coaches between London and Cardiff from December next year.