By Connor Steel
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY (SWR) have announced that Fareham and Portchester train stations will not be served by the operator for three days this week as pending strike action looks set to cause nationwide disruption; the train company urging people to avoid travelling by rail during the week of June 20 and confirming a heavily limited timetable for the upcoming three ‘strike’ days.
The press release on Friday comes as Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT) workers join Network Rail colleagues in joining the picket line for three days next week in an argument over pay and dispute. The nationwide strike action was confirmed ten days ago, taking place on June 21 (Tuesday), June 23 (Thursday) and June 25 (Saturday); with approximately 50,000 workers set to walk out.
In preparation SWR have released their strike day timetable, which will see a highly limited service being run on four routes in the region made available by Network Rail between 7:15am and 6:30pm. The company have trained 250 members of staff to help run these services to popular destinations for commuters, as well as ensuring that crucial freight operations aren’t badly affected by the strikes.
Safety is also a key consideration behind this timetable with Network Rail providing contingency cover for critical roles including electrical control room operators, signallers, maintenance, and emergency response teams. However they will not be able to cover the whole day as normal, hence the set hours for services, and the last trains are set to run from 5pm to 6pm on all four selected routes.
Rail services will run between (London) Waterloo and Windsor via Hounslow alongside the line running from Waterloo and Woking; both seeing four trains running hourly in both directions. Two semi-fast services will run per hour between Waterloo and Basingstoke in each direction, whilst the final route will see trains using the line running from Waterloo and Southampton throughout the three days.
These four routes are subject to change however at short notice due to striking workers or sickness, whilst trains will not be able to stop at all stations on the lines. Commuters are asked to check before travelling and to avoid all but essential travel, although the Island Line Services (Isle of Wight) aren’t due to be affected by the industrial action that threatens to “grind the network and country to a total halt”.
No other SWR services will run across the region across the ‘strike days’, meaning that Fareham and Portchester stations won’t see any services from this rail provider as they are not on the ‘list’ published on their website. It is not known whether the two stations will remain open to the public during the three days as fellow company Southern haven’t yet released their ‘strike’ timetables at the time of writing.
Significant disruption is expected to begin on June 20 (Monday evening) and continue until June 26 (Sunday night); when the network will not be operational before 7:30am and a Sunday level of service will operate throughout the majority of the week. With this in mind local drivers have been warned of increased traffic on the roads whilst Gosport Ferry and bus users can expect more crowds using the services.
And there have been plenty of apologies for commuters who will be affected by the strikes next week across the train network. SWR’s Managing Director, Claire Mann, said in a short online statement announcing the reduced timetables: “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.“
She continued to conclude by saying: “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 added his thoughts “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.”
He continued his message to commuters by saying: “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.”
PICTURED BY SHUTTERSTOCK: SWR train glistens in the evening sunset at very quiet UK train station.