Crisis talks are being held to save rail commuters from 27 days of strikes throughout December.

The government organization Acas has brought workers and bosses of South Western Railway together to try resolve a dispute that would disrupt rail services throughout December.

A spokesman for South Western Railway said: “We were approached by Acas and are happy to talk.”

Mike Cash, general secretary of transport union RMT, said: “We enter into these talks in good faith as always, and we won’t be giving a running commentary.”

The strikes would stop services from December 2, excluding Thursday 12 for the election, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

This would be the longest concentrated union action in British railway history, estimated to affect 16,000 services.

The strike follows a dispute over the role of guards in new trains, which the RMT says has been going on for over two years. The union claims every train needs a driver and a guard, but South Western has refused to reassure workers both will always be present in coming years.

The company says they are committed the role of guard and have hired 80 more since their franchise started, but the union says the role will be ‘gutted’, affecting safety and accessibility on board.