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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 21:28 GMT
Rail chaos for second day
Commuters wait on platform
Thousands of rail commuters could face long delays
Rail commuters across much of southern England faced another day of chaos as the second day of a 48-hour train strike could see up to two-thirds of South West Trains cancelled.

But the company vowed to use more of its managers to replace striking workers to make the industrial action "irrelevant".

The call came as one militant member of Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, whose demotion sparked a strike earlier this month, warned that the dispute could spread if more managers replaced striking guards and station staff.

The use of managers in place of strikers caused a row over safety with a second rail union Aslef writing to the Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) accusing the safety body of showing "bias" towards train companies.

Manager are 'safe'

The train company ran 600 out of its usual 1,700 trains across southern England and into London's Waterloo station on Monday by using 100 managers to take over jobs of guards and other roles.

But Greg Tucker, whose demotion was the focus of a previous strike, said the company was playing Russian roulette with passenger safety.

SWT managing director Andrew Haines insisted its training of managers had been "safety validated".

He said: "We are determined that never again should the RMT hold our passengers to ransom.

They are using admin staff who have never been out of the office to work on stations

Greg Tucker, RMT activist
"We cannot sit idly by while the RMT pursues its political agenda.

"We must take action to give our passengers the best possible service and our managers have proved themselves more than willing to go that extra mile.

"If the RMT refuses to call off these damaging strikes, we will continue to run more and more services each strike day."

Mr Haines said the company had 100 more managers available for training and they will be used to help run more services if the next round of strikes goes ahead as threatened on the 12 and 13 of February.

Around 35,000 commuters arrived at or left Waterloo station during the peak hours because of the company's efforts, but thousands still suffered long delays and overcrowding.

'Minimal training'

Fewer than 200 services ran on the first strike day earlier this month but SWT has been working over the past few weeks to train managers.

The union is seeking an improved pay deal and is complaining about disciplinary action taken against one of its activists, Greg Tucker, who was demoted from his job as a driver following a safety-related incident.

"They are using admin staff who have never been out of the office to work on stations," said Mr Tucker.

"They have had minimal training, so the company is playing Russian roulette with the safety of passengers.

"They are talking about bringing in lots of scab labour over the next few weeks, that is not going to resolve the issue and could mean that this dispute spreads over the next few weeks."

General secretary of Aslef, Mick Rix, said: "Whenever there is a dispute in the railway industry, HMRI seems more than willing to turn a blind eye to the poor standard of training of personnel used to beat a dispute."

The BBC's Simon Montague
"The company has told the unions negotiations are over"
South West Trains' manager Andrew Haines
"We are not looking for non-unionised staff"
Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster
"The last thing that rail users need is a strike"
The BBC's Tom Symonds
"It is about pay and about procedures for disciplining staff"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | UK
Ruthless drive for profits
28 Jan 02 | UK
Benefits staff on strike
27 Jan 02 | England
Rail bosses to become guards
24 Jan 02 | England
In pictures: Arriva train strike
24 Jan 02 | England
Guards aim for striking impact
24 Jan 02 | Scotland
Strike vote by ScotRail drivers
24 Jan 02 | England
Commuters stranded by rail strike
16 Jan 02 | England
Rail strikes delayed for talks
12 Jan 02 | England
Talks offered in rail dispute
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