RAIL workers embroiled in the bitter disputes over the role of guards are to take fresh industrial action.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on South Western Railway will refuse to work any rest days from February 16 to 19.

The company, which runs services to and from London Waterloo - the UK's busiest station - is one of five operators involved in long running rows over staffing which have led to a series of strikes stretching back almost two years.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It is frankly disgraceful that South Western Railway point-blank refuse to engage with the union in meaningful talks over their plans to run trains without a safety-critical guard on board across this franchise.

"It is the intransigent attitude of the company which has forced us to put on this latest phase of industrial action in an effort to force them to see sense and to drive them back to the negotiating table for genuine and meaningful talks.

"We know that this action will have a serious impact on services and the responsibility for the disruption caused will be wholly down to South Western Railway and their pig-headed attitude.

"It is time for the company to get out of the bunker and start talking."

A spokesman for South Western Railway said: "We will do everything we can to minimise the inconvenience to our passengers from this unnecessary action."