RAIL passengers are suffering fresh disruption as workers staged a second day of strike action in bitter disputes over the role of guards and driver-only trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on South Western Railway (SWR) continued with industrial action.

Picket lines were mounted outside stations, including at Salisbury, and the union said support was again solid.

Salisbury picket supervisor and train guard David Tattam said: "We are all guards and it's just about maintaining the role we are currently doing.

"It's not about the money, it's about safety for the passengers, about looking after the passengers, whether it's vulnerable or disabled passengers or anyone else that needs our assistance."

RMT General secretary Mick Cash said the public was backing the union's campaign and he again accused the Government of blocking talks, which ministers deny.

He said: "Our members know what is at stake and are not prepared to abandon the disabled, the vulnerable and women travelling alone to their fate on a railway run solely for profit.

"Social media shows that public support is flooding in as our communities choose to stand by their guards against the financially and politically motivated drive to throw safety-critical staff off our trains.

"The public are telling us that they are disgusted that this minority Government are prepared to sit back and cheer on overseas operators who are robbing British passengers blind while sacrificing basic safety standards in order to subsidise transport services in Paris, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

"There is growing evidence that managers are being paid substantial bonuses to act as bogus guards to try and keep services running regardless of the safety rule book and the threat to public security.

"If money and effort can be put into shuttling fake guards on to our trains why can't the same energy and resources be dedicated to retaining the real, experienced guards that the public want?

"If the Government allows normal industrial relations to recommence it would free the union up to negotiate deals like the ones we have successfully struck in Wales and Scotland that guarantee a guard on the trains."

The strikes will end at midnight tonight (Thursday).

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The RMT is attempting to disrupt passengers as part of its political game.

"However, rail companies are keeping passengers moving with the large majority of services running as planned.

"This dispute is not about jobs or safety - employees have been guaranteed jobs and salaries, in fact at Southern Rail, where these changes have already been introduced, there are now more staff on trains.

"And the independent rail regulator has said driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for more than 30 years, are safe.

"It is completely untrue that the Government is blocking talks. The Transport Secretary met the RMT during the summer, after offering several times to have talks to resolve this issue."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: "Our passengers are tired of unjustified RMT strike action disrupting their services.

"They want their trains to run more punctually and more often, and that's what the rail industry's long-term plan, backed by billions of pounds of private investment, is going to deliver.

"Operators make profits of 3% on average, having contributed to a £2.2 billion turnaround in the railway's finances which means more money to invest in the railway Britain needs."