RAIL passengers are facing significant disruption due to a strike beginning today by South Western Railway workers.

Around half of normal services have been cancelled as workers from the RMT union began a five-day strike this morning, writes Arthur Scott-Geddes.

Five further days of industrial action are planned for November.

In a statement, a spokesperson for South Western Railway said: “The RMT has again decided to needlessly disrupt our customers and colleagues with more strikes over the next two months.”

South Western Railway attacked the “damaging” strikes: “The union has cynically chosen dates with the aim of targeting hard-working commuters, families enjoying the half-term holiday and sports fans to cause as much misery as possible.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash defended the decision to strike: “RMT members are solidly supporting the strike action across the South Western Railway franchise this morning in the fight to put public safety before private profit.”

“Recent figures have shown a shocking a surge in violence on our railways it is frankly appalling that South Western Railway are looking for a green light to throw the guard off their trains as and when they see fit,” Mr Cash added.

Several of the passengers affected by the industrial action voiced their anger on Twitter.

One user called for strikes to railway services to be “outlawed”.

Another said he was “Looking forward to the day that we get a decent Prime Minister who will break these militant unions that still think they are in the 70’s.”

However, RMT insisted the strikes had the support of a “silent majority” of the population.

The strikes are the latest in a series of industrial actions that have affected rail users over the past year.

A spokesperson for RMT said the strikes were “in the interest of the public.”

RMT said that the decision to strike was a last resort: “If there were any other options, we would take them, we have taken them.

“They have offered us nothing.”

South Western Railway customers affected by the strikes are advised to check their journeys before travelling, as some routes will not have a train service or a replacement bus service.

Amended timetables have today been placed on the SWR website.