SOUTH Western Railway is set to be hit by strikes on New Year's Eve as part of a bitter row 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 and on Greater Anglia on December 27.

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

RMT 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: "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."

Similar disputes are affecting Southern, Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North. A strike will be held on Merseyrail on December 22.