THOUSANDS of Dorset rail passengers are facing a disruptive December and New Year, as 27 days of strike action will be going ahead.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union says its members at South Western Railway (SWR) will walk out over a long-running dispute over guards on trains.

Talks between SWR and the union ended without agreement.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "No proposals that would enable the development of a resolution to the dispute have been put forward by SWR.

"Throughout these ‎talks SWR have not shown any intention of moving the issues at the heart of the dispute forwards despite verbal assurances in earlier discussions. It has become increasingly clear that they are not interested in reaching a settlement at this time."

Meanwhile, SWR managing director Andy Mellors, who has promised to always keep a guard on SWR trains, has said everything will be done to keep customer moving.

The strike means most routes across the network will operate with a reduced service, and some stations will be served by replacement buses.

Stations and trains will also be busier than usual, SWR says, so the company has advised passengers to leave more time to access some of the network's busiest stations and routes.

Mr Mellors said: "We promise that there will always be a guard on our trains. We also promise our guards will maintain a safety critical role on our trains.

“We believe that these promises deliver what the RMT has been asking for, so these strikes are unnecessary.

“All we’re asking is that guards work with us to provide the modern, efficient train service customers need and want by bringing in new trains which could mean over 10 million more passenger journeys arrive on-time in peak hours every year.

"Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year, and we know people will be worried about how they get to work, school and other commitments like Christmas parties.

“So we are working hard on detailed plans for the period of the strikes and we will do everything we can to keep customers moving."

Strike days will be from 12.01am, Monday, December 2, until 11.59pm, Wednesday, December 11; then from 12.01am, Friday, December 13, until 11.59pm on Christmas Eve; then between 12.01am, Friday, December 27, until 11.59pm on New Year's Day.

Mr Cash said: "As a result of the company attitude all planned action remains on and the union is committed to ensuring the safest possible method of operation.

"RMT will remain available for discussions with the company at any time.”

While Mr Mellors says SWR expects to be running more than half of its Monday to Friday services, and providing a similar number of peak services to previous strikes.

He added: "We know that during the strike action, services will be busier than usual, and we will have rail replacement services in some places and we’re working to make sure our tickets are accepted by other transport providers wherever possible.

“Please check before you travel, and we will make sure the latest information is available on our website.”