South Western Railway (SWR) is urging customers only to travel by rail if absolutely necessary as strike action is confirmed.

Customers are being warned to expect severe disruption during affected days and, if passengers do have to travel, they should find alternative means.

This comes as SWR published their strike day timetable, which will provide a very limited service on the routes Network Rail have made available. The reduced timetable will see significant parts of the network closed entirely and those trains still running will be far less frequent compared to normal.

When is the national rail strike?

Bournemouth Echo: Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT, at their headquarters in London. Picture: PAMick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT, at their headquarters in London. Picture: PA

Network Rail and more than 2,100 SWR RMT members are set to take strike action on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (June 21, 23 and 25), causing severe disruption.

Network Rail is providing contingency cover for critical roles including electrical control room operators, signallers, maintenance and response teams, but will not be able to cover the whole day.

SWR’s reduced timetable will run from 07.15am to 6:30pm on the three strike days, and will consist of: 

  • Four trains per hour in each direction between Waterloo and Windsor via Hounslow
  • Two semi-fast trains per hour in each direction between Waterloo and Basingstoke 
  • Four trains per hour in each direction between Waterloo and Woking
  • Two fast trains per hour in each direction between Waterloo and Southampton

Trains will not stop at all stations on these routes and there will be no SWR services across the rest of the network.

Island Line services will not be affected by the industrial action.

Significant disruption is also expected on Wednesday 22, Friday 24 and Sunday 26 June, when the network will not be operational before 07:30 and a Sunday level of service will operate throughout the day.

South Western Railway’s Managing Director, Claire Mann, said: “The sheer scale of this planned industrial action severely limits the number of trains we can run and routes we can serve, which is reflected in the reduced timetable we have published today. 

“With this disruption set to be so considerable, I regretfully urge customers to only travel by rail if absolutely necessary between Tuesday 21 and Sunday 26 June.

“I am sorry these strikes will cause such disruption and am grateful to our customers for their patience and understanding as the rail industry works to bring this damaging nationwide action to an end.”

Network Rail route director Mark Killick said: “We’re so sorry for the disruption next week and we know how difficult this will be for our customers so soon after the pandemic.

“We’ve trained 250 staff so we can keep some of the busiest lines open, focussing our resources on the routes that can keep the largest numbers of customers and freight moving and serving vital locations such as hospitals.

“That said, we will not compromise on safety and the strike does mean that large parts of the network will be closed.

“We are continuing to work with unions to find a solution and will keep doing so. But we also have to be honest and accept that we have to change the way we work, to reflect the changes in society and travel patterns post pandemic.

“Again, I’d like to apologise to everyone who find their journeys disrupted next week and urge our customers to check before they travel.”

Customers are urged to check the SWR website for the latest information.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps responds to rail strike

Bournemouth Echo: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of a “grave dereliction of duty”. Picture: PATransport Secretary Grant Shapps of a “grave dereliction of duty”. Picture: PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there can be “no deal” without accepting the need to modernise the railways, while accusing union leaders and the Opposition of seeming to focus on “widening the division, rather than bridging the gap”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Shapps said: “The rhetoric we have seen from union leaders, and the Opposition benches over the weekend seems to be focused on widening the division, rather than bridging the gap.”

He said rail reform “is to unite and modernise the industry”, warning against “clinging to obsolete working practices”, giving as an example how on “most of the railway… Sunday working is voluntary”.

He said: “The industry needs to change. The union claims that this is a strike about a pay freeze, but this is factually incorrect. We are not imposing a pay freeze.

“The whole point of these reforms is in fact to build a sustainable, growing railway where every rail worker receives a decent annual pay rise.

“But let me be clear, for modernisation and reform to work, we have to have unions who are prepared to modernise, otherwise there can be no deal.”

Labour accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of a “grave dereliction of duty”.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “Even at this 11th hour they can still be avoided: to do so it requires ministers to step up and show leadership.

“To get employers and the unions round the table and address the very serious issues on pay and on cuts to safety and maintenance staff behind this dispute.

“The entire country is about to be ground to a halt but instead of intervening to try and stop it, the Secretary of State is washing his hands of any responsibility.

“On the eve of the biggest rail dispute in a generation taking place on his watch he has still not lifted a finger to resolve it.

“Not one meeting, no talks, no discussions only media interviews and a petition to the Labour Party. This is a grave dereliction of duty.”