Page last updated at 17:40 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 18:40 UK

Talks over national rail strike threat adjourned

Rail tracks near Glasgow Central Station
A strike could affect as many as nine out of 10 trains on some routes

Talks between unions and employers aimed at averting next week's planned four-day national rail strike have been adjourned until Tuesday.

The RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) are planning action from 6 April, which could hit 80% of services on average.

The dispute is centred on Network Rail plans to cut 1,500 jobs and increase evening and weekend maintenance work.

The talks are steered by conciliation service Acas.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "We go into the talks in a positive frame of mind and committed to reaching an agreement which protects safety-critical jobs, safe working practices and which delivers a secure future for both our members and the travelling public the length and breadth of the UK rail network.

"We are determined to secure a settlement which addresses all of the issues at the heart of our disputes with Network Rail."

The talks are expected to continue until at least Tuesday before any announcement is made.

Network Rail has said it will continue to try to find a resolution but has not ruled out legal action to try to prevent the strike.

People need to be aware that if this strike goes ahead, a lot of services will be severely hit
Robin Gisby, Network Rail

If the walkout goes ahead, it would be the first national rail strike since 1994.

Robin Gisby, NR's director of operations and customer services, said: "We believe there is a settlement to be had.

"We can't bank on the union to call off the strike, despite ongoing talks, and so we are now concluding our contingency plans with full details available later this week.

"Network Rail and the operators will do all we can to run as many trains as possible but people need to be aware that if this strike goes ahead, a lot of services will be severely hit."

In a statement, the company added: "As an average across the country, only around 20% of passenger services are expected to run.

"Passengers should check with individual operators for more detail as this overall picture masks some routes and operators who will be able to run a near normal service between 7am and 7pm on the days of the strike."

It is estimated that the worst hit routes could be the commuter lines into London Victoria, Waterloo, Liverpool Street and London Bridge, where only one-in-10 trains could be in operation.

Safety concerns

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Transport Secretary Lord Adonis have both urged the two sides to try to resolve the row.

TSSA supervisors and RMT maintenance workers are set to walk out from 6 to 9 April, while RMT signal staff will strike from 0600-1000 and 1800-2200 on those days.

The strike was announced on Thursday after a meeting between Network Rail and the RMT and TSSA failed to reach agreement.

Bob Crow
Mr Crow said the RMT was determined to see its concerns addressed

Network Rail has said it hopes to achieve the vast majority of the 1,500 job losses through voluntary redundancy.

Unions say the plans would adversely affect railway safety - a claim disputed by Network Rail.

There were fears the strike would be called over Easter, but the unions said they deliberately avoided this in order not to disrupt the public over the bank holiday.

However, the start of the strike coincides with the day on which Mr Brown is widely expected to announce the date of the general election.



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