TRAIN passengers will face travel chaos on New Year's Eve as South Western Railway staff are to strike over the role of guards.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway will walk out for 24 hours on December 31.

The union revealed this week that it had met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in a bid to resolve the disputes affecting five rail operators, but said there were "contradictory messages and confusion" from the minister and his department.

The RMT was told that the government is not opposed to a second person on trains and it was up to the union and employers to reach an agreement and was offered further talks to discuss its concerns about driver-only trains.

General secretary Mick Cash said that within an hour of the meeting finishing, he received a "contradictory letter" from Mr Grayling asking that the union accepts the principle of driver-controlled operation.

Mr Cash said: "It's the continuing failure of the train companies and their political puppet-masters in government to make any attempt whatsoever to resolve these disputes over rail safety that has led us to call action and the responsibility for the disruption that will be caused lays fairly and squarely at their door.

"At the meeting yesterday with the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, and the Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, we were told that we could reach a deal with the employers to keep a second person on the train and we were also offered further talks to discuss our concerns around driver only trains and accessibility.

"But within an hour of that meeting I received a letter from Chris Grayling asking the union to accept the principle of driver only operation which as everyone knows reduces accessibility because there is no longer a guard to assist older and disabled passengers who need assistance. Astonishingly I have also been made aware that Chris Grayling has written to the train companies with the same letter.

"There is chaos and confusion in the rail industry surrounding the government's position, which makes it almost impossible to negotiate, and I have written to Chris Grayling to express my concern at this lack of clarity and contradictory messages but also to offer further talks not least on the vital issue of accessibility.

"It really should be straightforward - the Scottish and Welsh governments have agreed to keep the guards on our trains so there is no reason why the UK government cannot as well."