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Exclusive: Rail talks set for next week as fresh round of strikes begin

Exclusive: Rail talks set for next week as fresh round of strikes begin

As the latest round of national rail strikes begins at 14 train operators, the leader of the RMT union has said he expects talks to resume next week.

General secretary Mick Lynch spoke exclusively to The Independent at a picket line at London Euston station. Tens of thousands of members of the RMT are walking out today (16 March) and on Saturday 18 March.

But Mr Lynch indicated that the third and fourth days of industrial action, 30 March and 1 April, could be averted.

He told The Independent: “We’re looking to get back around the table next week. We want to work up some solutions to these problems and we want to get a square deal for our people.

“If we can do that, the dispute will be ended.”

Despite the walkout, all 14 train operators are running some services – with trains every half-hour from Newcastle to London on LNER, and a normal service on c2c between the capital and Southend.

The train operators, and ministers who will sign off the final settlement, believe that support for strikes is crumbling.

But Mr Lynch said: “I’ve got pictures from picket lines all across the country. Our members are out in support and I’m hearing reports that the service is reduced by up to 40 and 50 and 60 per cent depending where you are.

“So the action is as we expected, our members are adhering to the call for action.”

The government and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators, insist a wage rise of 5 per cent for 2022 and 4 per cent for this year is contingent on modernisation intended to increase efficiency. The Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, described it as a “best and final offer”.

The RMT rejected it as a “dreadful offer” and then asked for a no-strings pay rise.

But the union boss now says: “A no-strings offer would be good, but we have to deal with what’s presented to us, not just what we want.”

Mr Lynch added: “We want the passengers to be on our side, we serve the passengers and take them to where they want to go, hopefully.”

Steve Montgomery, chair of the RDG, said: “This latest round of strikes will be a further inconvenience to our customers, who have already experienced months of disruption, and cost our people even more money at a time they can least afford it.

“They will also be asking why the RMT leadership blocked the chance to resolve this dispute by refusing to give their…

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