Southern rail passengers are facing more travel misery after the RMT Union announced its members would strike for 14 days in five blocks from October.

The industrial action is part of a dispute over the role of rail guards, with Southern owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) planning to allow train drivers to close doors in conjunction with CCTV.

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT, claimed his members were "being forced" to strike over safety fears.

"GTR and the government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute," he said.

"Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation [DOO] without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access.

He added: "Last week there was a train derailment near Watford that involved two trains.

"The guards on both trains played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances.

"If the train had been DOO and without a guard the consequences would have been far worse."

The comments came after the RMT and Scotrail management reached an agreement over the role of rail guards on the franchise. Cash argued such a resolution can be found with Southern.

"We call on them to get round the negotiating table as an urgent priority," he said.

GTR branded RMT's decision as "shameful" and blamed the union for "further travel misery". A spokesperson added: "A comprehensive and fair offer has been on the table for weeks and the union leadership's claims about jobs, pay, safety are trumped-up make believe.

"This scaremongering by the RMT union is a contrived attempt to gain public support when it knows its spurious arguments about jobs, pay, accessibility and safety have been demolished by independent experts and analysis and are falling on deaf ears.

"As a responsible operator, our priority is to make our services more accessible, not less, and we will not be shaken in that commitment.

"We care deeply about those of our customers who are less mobile and help thousands of elderly and disabled customers week in, week out, to travel with us. We will do everything we can to ensure those needing help getting on and off our trains receive our care and attention to get them where they want to be, promptly and hassle-free."

The spokesperson also stressed that GTR was "always" ready to negotiate with the RMT in a bid to resolve the dispute.