A RAIL operator facing 27 days of strikes from next week in the guards dispute will get a Government "bailout" of £86 million to cover lost passenger revenue, a union has claimed.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at South Western Railway (SWR) will walk out from Monday, causing travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of passengers in the run-up to Christmas, including those on the Weymouth-Waterloo line.

SWR has announced that some services will be replaced by buses, others will be cancelled and finish earlier than usual.

Trains will still run on the Weymouth and Dorchester South line but there will be a reduced service. An hourly shuttle train will run from Weymouth to Bournemouth and passengers wishing to travel towards Southampton and London can pick up a train at Bournemouth.

The action does not affect Great Western Railway services from Weymouth to Bristol.

The RMT said that parliamentary answers and reports to investors have revealed that SWR is set to get a "taxpayer bailout" of £86 million for previous strikes and over the coming weeks to cover lost passenger revenue.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, "This £86 million taxpayer-funded government bailout means South Western Railway will be paid by the Government even when they don't run trains on strike days. Fat cat rail bosses won't lose a penny and have no incentive to settle.

"This is an astonishing political intervention by the Government during the general election that deliberately politicises and prolongs this dispute."

Talks aimed at resolving the long-running row over the role of guards collapsed on Thursday, with the two sides blaming each other.

SWR says it is guaranteeing there will be a guard on every train, accusing the union of changing its position and being intent on striking "no matter what".

The union said the company rejected proposals it believed would have resolved the dispute, at no cost to the company.

An SWR spokesman said: "To suggest we're making money from these strikes is frankly absurd."

n Engineering work will affect the Weymouth-Waterloo line tomorrow.

The line between Bournemouth and Southampton Central will be closed all day for work on bridges and embankments with track repairs also planned.

Trains will run to Poole where buses will take passengers to Southampton where London trains will be waiting.

Check before travelling at southwesternrailway.com