Train services are being reduced to emergency timetables on main lines for a second day after a new round of talks between the RMT, Network Rail and train operating companies failed to make progress.
The dispute, over jobs and pay, means that today’s strike will disrupt services in every part of Britain, with no trains running in Dorset or Cornwall, much of East Anglia, and also on most lines in Scotland and Wales.
Limited services are running on some main lines, but there are no trains west of Cardiff or to Holyhead, or west of Plymouth. Although ScotRail and Transport for Wales are not involved, most of their routes are closed because no Network Rail signallers are available.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has been criticised because he has not intervened directly but is allegedly controlling the negotiations from behind the scenes. However, Railnews understands that the Treasury is now overseeing railway finances rather than the Department for Transport.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch 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.
‘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.’
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines has said that maintenance jobs are being reduced because new technology means fewer staff are needed. He has undertaken to cut the number of posts by voluntary severance or retirement, adding that anyone wishing to stay would be offered fresh training and a different job within Network Rail.
He is reported by the Daily Telegraph to have added that poor productivity was the problem, continuing: ‘We are such an archaic industry in many of our working practices we can offer a good pay rise to our colleagues and good value for the taxpayer if only we can get sensible reforms in.’
Unless there is a breakthrough in the meantime, a third national walkout is set to be staged on Saturday.