South Western Railway passengers can expect travel chaos on the Saturday before Christmas, after union leaders announced a walkout over the long running issue of driver only trains.

Passengers across South London and North Surrey will be affected, as the railway network covers Kingston and large swathes of Surrey, including Weybridge, Esher and Thames Ditton.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has confirmed 24-hour strike action on December 22 over the issue of guards on trains.

Union members on South Western Railway have been told not to book on shifts between after midnight and 11.59pm on the Saturday before Christmas.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash blamed South Western Railway for the lack of progress in resolving the ongoing dispute over guards on train.

Mr Cash accused South Western Railway on being “hell bent on opening up a loophole that would allow them to run services driver only at their discretion.”

He said: “Recent figures have shown a shocking surge in violence on our railways across the festive season and 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 in the name of profit.

"SWR might think it’s acceptable to play fast and loose with passenger safety, security and access but RMT members, who have stood firm throughout this dispute despite appalling harassment from the company, will not accept a dilution of the safety regime on the railway.

“There's a simple solution to ‎this dispute and it means SWR stop playing with words and negotiate the guard guarantee that reflects the safety values of the agreements RMT has pinned down in other parts of the rail industry.”

South Western Railway said it would do everything it can to provide the best service for customers, should the action go ahead. 

The railway company described the strike as "totally unncessary", saying it has guaranteed to roster a guard on every train. 

A South Western Railway spokesperson said: "By targeting the last Saturday before Christmas when people are trying to travel to be with family and friends the RMT is ensuring the maximum misery is inflicted at what should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment.

“The RMT is scaremongering by using crime in its statement. The number of crimes on the SWR network has reduced by nearly 6 percent since April. 

"SWR’s team of 35 rail community officers work on trains and at stations to prevent and detect crimes. They work closely with BTP officers to help reduce incidents on the network, engaging with customers and highlighting suspicious activity."