Rail managers fill strikers' shoes

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South West Trains will deploy managers to act as guards tomorrow as it tries to run as many trains as possible in the face of a 48-hour strike.

Up to 100 managers have been on a two-day safety training course in preparation for the walk-out by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union over wage levels. South West Trains said the Health and Safety Executive were happy with their plans but the union have condemned the decision. A spokesman said: "Passengers should be asking are their trains safe to travel on?"

South West Trains denied reports that it was planning a mass recruitment of non-unionised guards in order to sack striking workers. A spokesman said: "We are not legally allowed to sack staff who strike. We are advertising for guards, but this is just part of our rolling recruitment programme."

Train services across northern England were returning to normal yesterday after a 48-hour strike over pay came to an end. RMT officials will meet with Arriva managers next week.