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Rail passengers face travel chaos as last-ditch talks fail to resolve dispute

·3-min read
Passengers at London King’s Cross (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Passengers at London King’s Cross (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

Rail passengers face days of travel chaos after last-ditch talks failed to resolve a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, in the biggest outbreak of industrial action on the railways for a generation.

Services across the UK will start to be affected from Monday evening, with just one in five trains running on strike days, mainly on main lines and only for about 11 hours.

Talks were held until Monday afternoon but the row remains deadlocked, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said Network Rail had offered a 2% pay rise with the possibility of a further 1% later dependent on efficiency savings.

He warned the dispute could continue for months, adding: “It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.

“The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.

“At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.”

He also urged the Labour Party to support the union now its members would be taking industrial action.

There were clashes in the Commons between Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Labour over his handling of the dispute.

Answering criticism that he has not been involved in talks, he said the Government was keeping out of discussions, which were “highly technical”.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT at the union’s headquarters in London (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT at the union’s headquarters in London (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

He said industrial action would “endanger” jobs rather than save them, and denied claims that the Government was imposing a pay freeze on rail workers.

The Government’s plans for reforms of the rail industry were aimed at building a “sustainable growing railway”.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said the Government had overseen a “catastrophic failure of leadership”, adding that the talks were a “sham” because “ministers have set them up to fail”.

Steve Montgomery, who chairs the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are very disappointed that the RMT leadership has decided to reject our offer and press ahead with disruptive industrial action.

Passengers at London King’s Cross station (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Passengers at London King’s Cross station (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

“With passenger numbers still at around 80% of pre-pandemic levels the industry remains committed to giving a fair deal on pay while taking no more than its fair share from taxpayers.

“This can only be achieved by making improvements, like offering better services on a Sunday, that reflect the changing needs of passengers so we can attract more back.

“This is what the country wants to see from a modern rail system, and we call on the RMT leadership to continue to talk to us so we can secure a thriving long-term future for the railway and its workforce.”

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “No strike is inevitable until the moment it begins, but sadly disruption tomorrow is guaranteed so we’re asking passengers to plan ahead and only travel by train if necessary.”

London Underground workers are also on strike on Tuesday.

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