Rail strike to go ahead: Bitter row erupts as latest round of talks breaks down

22 June 2022, 20:57 | Updated: 22 June 2022, 21:06

Mick Lynch and Grant Shapps exchanged claims in a war of words
Mick Lynch and Grant Shapps exchanged claims in a war of words. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

More rail strikes will take place on Thursday after fresh talks appeared to have widened the rift between the RMT union and rail bosses.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Last ditch talks failed to stop tomorrow's union walk out which will again see much of the country's train services scrapped.

As negotiations failed yet again, the division became increasingly acrimonious, with the RMT accusing Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of "wrecking" negotiations by refusing to allow Network Rail to withdraw redundancy threats.

Mr Shapps called the claim "a total lie", adding the union was solely to blame for the "massive disruption".

RMT boss Mick Lynch held firm over demands about pay, jobs and conditions, while the Government has warned the action risks the future of their jobs and passenger faith in the rail network.

The impact on Thursday is set to be similar to Tuesday's – although commuters in London will be able to use the Tube this time.

As Brits brace for the disruption, Mr Lynch swapped accusations and criticism with the transport secretary.

"Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members," he said.

"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.

Grant Shapps has called for reform to Britain's railways
Grant Shapps has called for reform to Britain's railways. Picture: Getty

"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."

Mr Shapps hit back: "This is a total lie from the RMT and its general secretary. I have had absolutely nothing to do with either the issuing of a letter from Network Rail, the employer, to the RMT - or any request to withdraw it.

Read more: Rail strike called under 'false pretences' by RMT's '1970s union baron' boss, says Shapps

"I understand that the letter makes no mention of 2,900 redundancies, but I do know it confirmed Network Rail would be introducing desperately needed reforms for the industry after the union chose strike action instead of further talks.

"The RMT continues to deflect from the fact that the only people responsible for the massive public disruption this week is them.

"I want to urge Mick Lynch and his members to stop wasting time making false claims in the media and instead return to the negotiating table so an agreement can be reached."

Mick Lynch has made demands over pay and jobs
Mick Lynch has made demands over pay and jobs. Picture: Getty

The RMT wants a 7% pay rise to help deal with soaring inflation, but they have instead only been offered up to 3% by their bosses.

However, rail firms argue that because passenger figures have not returned to pre-pandemic levels - hovering around 80% - they have lost money.

Read more: Starmer made 'catastrophic misjudgement' with picket line ban, says union chief

Tuesday saw roughly a fifth of services run as RMT members working at Network Rail and 13 train operators staged the first of three walkouts.

Thursday will coincide with the start of Glastonbury. More than half of trains to the massive music festival had been cancelled, though GWR has laid on special services.

Another strike is scheduled for Saturday.