Millions of rail passengers across Britain face fresh disruption on Thursday after the RMT union accused the government of “wrecking” negotiations.
Rail services are being severely disrupted this week after around 40,000 members of the union, working for Network Rail and 13 train operators, voted to stage walkouts in a row over jobs, pay and conditions.
Talks were held on Wednesday between the union and industry bosses in a bid to break the deadlock, but they ended without agreement.
Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said: “Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.
“Until the government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.”
He added: “We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost of living crisis.”
Just 60 per cent of trains are running on Wednesday, and some operators will wind down services earlier than normal ahead of the next round of action.
The third and final strike of the week is planned for Saturday.
However, in a breakthrough, members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association working for Merseyrail have accepted a pay offer that the union’s leaders say is worth 7.1 per cent.
General secretary Manuel Cortes described it as “a sensible outcome to a reasonable offer”.
A survey of more than 2,300 people by Savanta ComRes showed that more than half (58 per cent) thought the industrial action was justified.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said reform of the railways was “desperately needed”.
The spokesperson said: “Unions have shut down big parts of the rail network, hitting local businesses and unfairly cutting people off from hospitals, schools and work.
“However, early data shows that, unlike in the past, many people now have the opportunity to work from home, so we haven’t seen a rush to the roads, as traffic has instead gone online, which means the unions aren’t having the overall impact they might have hoped.”