DOWNING Street has condemned plans for major rail strikes planned for later this month as "selfish" and "an act of self-harm" as ScotRail warned it may not be able to run any services in any walk out.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has urged the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to call off the walk outs which it was said would cause “lasting damage” to the industry and those who work in it and called for the issues to be resolved around the negotiating table.

Talks between Network Rail - which owns the UK's rail tracks, stations and signals – and the union are expected to be held in the next few days.

Up to 50,000 staff are due to walk out on a three-day strike later this month which would cripple Scotland's railways.

The RMT union in Scotland says that a strike would not just hit cross-border services but also the running of operations across the country including Scotrail and Caledonian Sleeper services.

That is because those involved are safety-critical workers, including signallers and maintenance staff employed by Network Rail who are crucial to keeping trains running.

Members of the RMT are due to strike on June 21, 23 and 25 in an ongoing UK-wide dispute with Network Rail over plans to axe hundreds of critical maintenance jobs.

It's the biggest outbreak of industrial action in the industry in a generation.

ScotRail has confirmed that as the strike affects Network Rail staff in Scotland "our services will be affected". The nationalised train operator said: "The impact is expected to be significant with a limited service operating, if at all."

It comes as the train drivers union Aslef is due to meet with ScotRail bosses on Thursday as talks resume in a bid to end a separate dispute over pay which has seen services cut by up to half in an emergency timetable due to staff shortages.

HeraldScotland:

That dispute has resulted in ScotRail advising the Tartan Army to consider leaving the Scotland v Armenia Nations League match last night early because of the service cuts.

The RMT says Network Rail is planning to cut at least 2,500 safety critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending, including hundreds north of the Border.

Meanwhile, workers have been subject to pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.

Network Rail insisted no proposals were on the table, talks were under way about modernising maintenance and how compulsory redundancies could be avoided. It rejected claims it would do anything to compromise safety.

The strikes fall during major events including The Eagles at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, the Royal Highland Show, Biffy Clyro at the Royal Highland Centre, and a Barry Manilow concert at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow.

Downing Street has said the strikes would be "thoroughly irresponsible".

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The key fact would be for them not to push ahead with these damaging strikes which will drive people away from using the railways at a time when we are already seeing numbers down on pre-pandemic levels.

“It is a self-defeating approach which will do lasting damage to not just the railways but to rail workers.”

Downing Street said it was working with industry on contingency plans to mitigate against the effects of the planned rail strikes.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That includes working with freight companies and their customers to plan ahead to reduce the impact on supply chains.

HeraldScotland:

“We are looking at prioritising resources towards key routes, deploying other modes of transport to cover any gaps, focussed hours for freight trains. There is a list of approaches being worked through.”

Labour said the proposed rail strikes should not go ahead and called for the Government to take a more active role in resolving the dispute.

The Prime Minister described the rail strike action as “reckless and wanton” in the Commons.

Network Rail is also drawing up contingency plans, with the strikes expected to cause disruption to services for six days, from the first walkout on Tuesday June 21 to the day after the third strike.

Fewer than one in five trains are likely to run, and only between 7am and 7pm, probably only on main lines.

No direct talks are planned between the union and train operators, although the RMT said it is open to “meaningful negotiations” to try to resolve the dispute and the Rail Delivery Group said it was willing to take part in negotiations.

According to the Department for Transport, the average UK salary rail worker salary is £44,000. This is more than the median pay of other public sector workers, such as nurses (£31,000), teachers (£37,000), and care workers (£17,000).

However, RMT said the salary figure was "unrepresentative" as it included higher-earning train drivers, who did not take part in the ballot as most are part of a different union. The union claims its members earn £33,000 a year on average.

Mick Lynch, secretary general of the RMT union, hit back at the government saying they were "experts at being selfish and irresponsible".

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the industry, urged the union, Network Rail and the operators to intensify talks to try to head off the disruption.