Strike brings trains to a halt

29-08-2006

More than 400,000 rail passengers face severe travel disruption today as train drivers stage their first strike for a decade at South West Trains (SWT).

About 900 drivers from Aslef and some from the RMT are involved in the 24-hour walkout, which was prompted after managers were drafted in to drive trains earlier this year during a dispute over the use of taxis to and from work.

SWT has advised its passengers not to travel unless "absolutely necessary", as only one in ten of its services will be operating. The company runs 1,700 trains daily across the south-east, with 350,000 passengers entering and departing via the central hub of London Waterloo.

Commuters can expect further disruption when two similar strikes are held next month, on Friday September 8th and Monday September 11th.

Keith Norman, Aslef's general secretary, said he believed SWT was using its passengers to try to "score points" over the union, describing the root of the strikes as a "small, local dispute".

"I am only sorry the public will suffer, rather than this appalling management," he added.

But Stuart Palmer, SWT's managing director, defended the use of managers to staff trains as merely utilising "every available resource to get our passengers were they wanted to go".

Addressing commuters, Mr Palmer said: "We are sorry that you will suffer as a result of this strike, particularly as it was our commitment to you our passengers that the unions are blaming for this action."

Meanwhile, drivers on the Heathrow Express between London Paddington and the airport will also strike today in a separate dispute, although the airport train firm said it would run a normal service.


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