Deal to halt rail strikes 'within touching distance' but unions told 'no bottomless pit of cash' ahead of more walkouts

3 January 2023, 20:37 | Updated: 4 January 2023, 07:13

Network Rail says it is 'on the right path' to a deal
Network Rail says it is 'on the right path' to a deal. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Network Rail has claimed that a deal is "within touching distance" to halt the remaining rail strikes this week as commuters prepare for more travel chaos.

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Chief negotiator for Network Rail Tim Shoveller urged the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union to "sit down with us" and revisit a deal made before Christmas so it could "make clarifications" where elements of the deal had been "misunderstood".

Strikes are continuing over disputes over pay and working conditions, with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch apologising for the action "dragging on".

He said the government was "doing nothing", warning that more walkouts would be on the cards if there was no deal.

But the Government has still dug itself in, with transport secretary Mark Harper telling striking workers there is "not a bottomless pit of money".

RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators are staging two 48-hour walkouts this week, one of which started on Tuesday and another due on Friday.

Rail services across Britain are affected while bus drivers in London are on strike, mostly affecting routes in south and west London.

Some traffic officers at National Highways who handle the effects of accidents are walking out, and some driving examiners are on strike in southern England and Wales.

Picket lines were again mounted outside railway stations across the country as 40,000 workers made a stand on Tuesday.

Read more: Union boss Mick Lynch says rail workers are being pushed towards gig economy as latest strikes begin

Read more: Back to work hit by strikes: Commuters face days of travel chaos with fresh walkouts

RMT boss Mick Lynch joins James O'Brien from 10am to answer your strike questions
RMT boss Mick Lynch joins James O'Brien from 10am to answer your strike questions - Watch Live on Global Player. Picture: LBC

Around half of Britain's railway lines were closed and just one in five services were running as a result.

Passengers have been advised only to travel if it is absolutely necessary due to the industrial action also impacting the London Overground, the Elizabeth line and parts of the Tube.

Strike action taking place this week
Strike action taking place this week. Picture: Alamy

Mr Lynch told Sky: "What has happened is we had a meeting with the railway secretary on 15 December, and we'd already given notice of action, and they've done nothing since that time, over Christmas, enjoying the holidays.

"We were available to meet and they didn't want to meet us.

"So they've waited until the strikes come to make these noises, but if they'd wanted to get a settlement and get the strikes off, they could have taken a bit more action and got things moving."

The picket line on Tuesday
The picket line on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy
Chief negotiator for Network Rail Tim Shoveller
Chief negotiator for Network Rail Tim Shoveller. Picture: Alamy

Train drivers in the Aslef are set to strike in between on Thursday too, meaning disruption is expected every day for the rest of the week.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: “We don’t want to go on strike but the companies have pushed us into this place.

“They have not offered our members at these companies a penny – and these are people who have not had an increase since April 2019.”

He continued: “The companies need to come to the table with a proper proposal to help our members, their drivers, buy this year what they could buy last year. That is the way to prevent another strike and all the disruption that causes."

Aslef represents 96 per cent of train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales.

The move will see workers from 15 companies, including Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway and Great Western Railway, walk out.

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