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NEARLY 500 guards, drivers and customer service hosts on Southeastern Trains are to be balloted for industrial action by Britain’s biggest rail union after the company declared war on the safety role of the guard and insisted on an extension of driver-only operation.

The RMT ballot, which will open on August 21 and close on September 11, has been sparked by the company’s intention to transfer control of power-operated doors to drivers and scrap guards on its new Hitachi ‘Javelin’ 395 rolling stock.

After avoiding meeting union reps for many months the company finally revealed that it intends to remove all control of power-operated doors on 395s from guards, along with the guard’s entire safety role other than train evacuation – in breach of existing agreements.