By Connor Steel
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY (SWR) have urged their commuters to avoid non-essential travel on their train networks this week as providers prepare for yet another wave of industrial action from the RMT trade unions; with severe disruption likely for all customers from Fareham and Portchester stations over this festive period.
This planned round of action follows a breakdown in recent communications with Government staff; the RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch announcing that a majority of members will strike from 6pm on Christmas Eve and continue until early on December 27. This joins an overtime ban for all members running until January 2.
No trains are scheduled to be running on Christmas Day or Boxing Day under company traditions; disruption from this particular industrial action being fairly minimal. But this latest strike may result in problems for many commuters; especially when combined with minor engineering maintenance work and annual leave for staff.
Christmas Eve will furthermore see multiple routes close from 12pm in preparation for the strike action with a late running start on December 27, which is a Bank Holiday. SWR have therefore confirmed a special festive timetable that will run until January 2; taking in account the planned strike action and ongoing overtime bans.
It has been announced that a total of nine routes will be available daily between the period of 7am and 10pm until January 2; except across Christmas Day and Boxing Day. However this will vary for both Christmas Eve (7am to 3pm) and December 27 (12pm to 10pm) as a result of this scheduled industrial action from the RMT.
Routes include four trains per hour from London Waterloo to terminate at Windsor & Eton Riverside and also Waterloo to Woking; whilst two semi-fast trains are scheduled hourly between Waterloo to Basingstoke along with a designated route between Waterloo to Southampton Central throughout all the days mentioned above.
Furthermore a route will run every two hours from Basingstoke to Salisbury, alternating alongside the journey running between Basingstoke and Exeter St Davids. One train per hour will terminate at Portsmouth Harbour from Woking and Eastleigh respectively; whilst a ninth will serve between Weymouth / Southampton Central.
Four 0ther routes will be added from December 28 until January 2; which are scheduled to run from London Waterloo in both directions. Two trains per hour will visit Reading via Twickenham and Guildford via Leatherhead; whilst single routes are due to run to Alton and Shepperton from the capital.
Four routes have been provisionally added to SWR timetables between December 28 until January 2; which are scheduled to run from London Waterloo across both directions. Two services each hour will visit Reading via Twickenham and Guildford via Leatherhead; whilst hourly trains are scheduled for Alton and Shepperton.
SWR have been able to run these services due to Network Rail providing contingency cover for critical roles such as response teams, control room operators, maintenance teams, and signallers; but will not be able to cover the whole time or full network safely. Unfortunately trains will not be able to stop at all stations on the nine routes, whilst no SWR services will run across the remainder of the network covering the South region.
This means that the Fareham and Portchester stations could see just one rail service from this train provider under the current list on the SWR website; which will run hourly on most days except December 27. This will be the route between Eastleigh and Portsmouth Harbour; also stopping via Hedge End, Cosham and Hilsea.
It is not known whether the fellow train company Southern will be running normal trains across Fareham and Portchester, with limited information available at the time of writing. All local drivers are warned of increased traffic on the roads whilst Gosport Ferry and bus users can expect larger footfall using the transport services.
Readers can plan their journeys on the train network by visiting the SWR link here and find more information on the national stations affected by Christmas strike action by clicking: www.southwesternrailway.com/strike.
PICTURED BY ALAMY (2K8GRFM): The SWR Logo is visible on staff jacket in front of big electronic board.