Network Rail invites RMT to fresh consultation talks

Fresh talks are reported to have been arranged for today with the RMT in a fresh bid to end the dispute which is reducing rail services to a fifth of their normal level on three days this week.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines has defended plans to reduce the number of maintenance staff, because systems of monitoring track are now much more efficient and do not need people walking along the lines, as they have been doing since Victorian times. He also said it is planned to cut the number of jobs by a process of natural wastage or voluntary severance rather than compulsory redundancies, and that in any case anyone affected could be retrained and redeployed within Network Rail.

In a letter sent to the RMT, Network Rail has invited the union to join in formal consultation talks on 1 July.

Network Rail added: ‘The changes will mean dumping outdated working practices and introducing new technology, both of which will lead to a more effective and safer maintenance organisation.

‘We expect this will reduce roles by around 1,800, the vast majority of which will be lost through voluntary severance and natural wastage. With retraining and redeployment also available to us, we anticipate there will be a job for everyone that wants one.

‘These changes are vital to put our railway on a firm financial footing for the future and will help us to save £100 million, while potentially giving us the flexibility needed to solve this industrial dispute.’

Meanwhile, although there is no RMT strike today, yesterday’s action and its effects on the working of the railway will mean that only six out of ten trains will be able to run today.

A second 24-hour walkout is set to be staged tomorrow, and a third is to follow on Saturday. While the strikes are taking place parts of Britain have no train services, including Dorset and most of East Anglia. In Scotland no trains can run north of the central belt because of walkouts by Network Rail signallers, and there are very few trains in Wales for the same reason. Apart from GWR trains to Cardiff, trains can only run on parts of the Valley Lines, which are maintained by Transport for Wales. Cornwall also has no trains on strike days, because the county’s railways depend on a number of mechanical boxes along the main line between Plymouth and Penzance and also on the Newquay line, none of which can be staffed.

Last night RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Today’s turnout at picket lines has been fantastic and exceeded expectations in our struggle for job security, defending conditions and a decent pay rise.

‘Our members will continue the campaign and have shown outstanding unity in pursuit of a settlement to this dispute.

‘RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and government policy 

‘Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.’