Workers on some of the country’s busiest rail lines begin a five-day strike on Tuesday.
It is part of a long-running dispute over guards on trains. It appeared a deal was in sight in February but the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is now renewing strike action after it said South Western Railway (SWR) had “dragged its heels” in negotiations and accused it of “rowing back” on public pledges.
Tens of thousands of travellers using services into and out of London Waterloo are expected to be hit, along with a series of high profile events, including Royal Ascot in Berkshire, music concerts at Hampton Court, and a gig by rock band Metallica at Twickenham on Thursday.
SWR said it will run extra trains to the events, but warned that “passengers are strongly advised to plan their travel in advance as services are likely to be busier than usual because of the strike action”.
The RMT said its members had been left with no choice but to go ahead with strike action.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “They are angry and frustrated that despite suspending action in good faith, and entering into talks in a positive and constructive manner, South Western Railway have dragged their heels and failed to bolt down an agreement that matches up to our expectations on the guard guarantee.
“Worse than that, the company have refused to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard, fuelling fears amongst our members of a stitch up.
“That situation has been compounded by an insistence that future operational models will be governed by the protection of company profits and not the safety of the travelling public.
“For more than three months we have sought to negotiate a conclusion to this dispute and it is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been signed off.
“It is because of that crucial failure by SWR that we have had no option but to lift the suspension and move back into strike action.”
SWR described the news of the strikes as “very disappointing” and said it had met with the union last week and agreed to arrange new dates to continue those talks.
An SWR spokesman said: “The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement.
“We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.
“We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone. We will do everything we can to keep customers moving during these strikes but would like to apologise for the disruption this unnecessary action will cause.
“Passengers are strongly advised to plan their travel in advance as services are likely to be busier than usual because of the strike action.