New hopes have emerged that a three-day UK rail strike that is set to cripple ScotRail and cross-border services can still be averted.

Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group, said more talks were planned for Monday - and that management wanted to work with unions on pay increases and reform.

Unions have been warning UK ministers to stop "inflaming tensions" and threatening to revoke workers' rights on the eve of the strike, which is due to start on Tuesday.

The Trade Union Congress called on the Westminster government to adopt a "positive" role in the rail dispute instead of “picking a fight” and “threatening to do a P&O” on rail workers by drafting in agency workers rather than finding a settlement.

Mr Montgomery said that rail bosses were trying to work with trade unions "on how to carry out modernisation and reform of the industry" amid falling passenger numbers.

"Ultimately we do want to give our people a pay increase... but we have to get on with reform, and that helps us deliver the next phase of giving people a pay rise," he said.

"We need both parties around the table and we really require details and an acceptance that reform can go ahead," he said.

Just five rail routes will operate in Scotland on strike days next week as ScotRail reissued a warning to passengers to expect serious disruption.

Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson and the transport secretary Grant Shapps of “stoking divisions” over nationwide rail strikes set to take place from tomorrow.

The Labour leader accused the government of “pouring petrol on the fire” over its handling of the dispute with unions, instead of attempting to avert the strikes.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned the country’s biggest rail union the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union that this week’s strikes will be a “huge act of self-harm” which could jeopardise the future of the industry.

He dismissed a call from the RMT for the Government to intervene as a “stunt”, saying the union had been “gunning” for industrial action for weeks.

However, Labour said ministers needed to step in to prevent the network “grinding to a halt” in a dispute over pay, conditions and job losses.

On Saturday, the RMT confirmed that strikes at Network Rail and 13 train operators will go ahead on Tuesday, Thursday and next Saturday which will lead to nine in ten train services in Scotland being lost.

Up to 50,000 staff from the train infrastructure owners Network Rail are due to walk out on a three-day strike over plans to axe hundreds of maintenance-critical jobs, described as the biggest outbreak of industrial action involving rail services in a generation.

A summer of discontent is being predicted by unions as increasing number of public sector workers are being balloted in Scotland for strike action in continuing discontent over staff cuts and below-inflation pay rises.

Newly nationalised ScotRail saw around 70 services disrupted yesterday on top of services being cut in half by an emergency timetable in advance of the Network Rail strike.

There were nearly 50 cancellations yesterday due to a shortage of staff caused by a separate and continuing ScotRail pay dispute involving train drivers.

The disruption was on top of the slashed emergency timetable introduced on May 9 to "give greater certainty" to the travelling public as train drivers work to rule.

Around 20 other services were also curtailed on Sunday by either reducing the number of stops or cutting the number of carriages due to the driver shortages.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon came under fire for taking to Twitter to slam the UK Government over next week's separately crippling Network Rail rail strike - despite presiding over six weeks of travel turmoil in the drivers dispute.

The train drivers union Aslef is putting a pay offer which together with bonuses amounts to an up to 10% pay rise to its members having recommended that it be backed.

The initial flat 5% offer  is much higher than for many in the public sector and is recommended for acceptance by the union’s entire negotiating team.


The TUC says Mr Shapps undermined a negotiated outcome in the Network Rail dispute by threatening to change the law so that employers can draft in agency workers in place of their workforce during industrial action – a proposal reminiscent of the action taken by P&O.

"Rail workers have already had their pay frozen for the last two years, at a time when most other workers got nominal pay rises, although not always enough to keep up with the cost of living," said the TUC.

"And many of the rail workers who will be taking industrial action are on low pay, so will be hit particularly hard by real terms pay losses worth thousands of pounds."

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added: “Nobody takes strike action lightly. But rail staff have been left with no other option.

“Many rail staff who will be hit hardest – such as caterers and cleaners – are on low and average earnings. It’s insulting to ask them to take yet another real-terms pay cut when rail companies took £500 million in profits during the pandemic.

“If these cuts go ahead thousands of safety-critical and frontline jobs will be lost, with train services at risk too. We need a better vison for the future of rail than commuters packed on unsafe trains like sardines.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch insisted he wanted to reach a settlement, but his members had no choice but to "fight".

He said: "I think there are going to be many unions balloting across the country, because people can't take it anymore.

"We have got people who doing full time jobs who are having to take state benefits and use food banks. That is a national disgrace."

He confirmed his union will press ahead with walkouts over pay, conditions and job losses.

Network Rail has said the industrial action will cause six days of disruption because services will be affected on the days in between.


Mr Lynch added: "We don't want to be the cause of disruption in people's lives. We want a settlement to this dispute, but we are facing a crisis for our members.

"If we don't play our hand thousands of my members will lose their jobs, railway services will be cut back, the safety regime that has been in place for a good deal of time will be cut back.

"We have to fight this this."

He also said claims by the transport secretary that the union refused to attend talks on Saturday in a bid to head off the strikes was "an entire fabrication".

But Mr Shapps said: "They are gunning for this strike action I am afraid and it's going to inconvenience millions of Britons."

He said: "It is disastrous. It is no way to behave on the railway. There is no advantage to this. I know Mick Lynch says he is 'nostalgic for union power' but this is no way to behave."

He dismissed calls by the RMT for the government to step in to resolve the rail dispute as a "stunt".

Mr Shapps said: "The trade unions know that only the trade union and the employer can settle this.


"I will not cut across that. I will not undermine the employer's works.

"This is a stunt at the 11th hour by the union, suddenly coming forward and saying 'We need to negotiate with the government now' even though this last month they told me they wouldn't be seen dead negotiating with the government."

Labour's shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy said that only the Government could now resolve the dispute and prevent the strikes going ahead.”

Meanwhile, retailers said this week’s rail strikes are a “blow” as they struggle with rising costs and staff shortages and are relying on the first restriction-free summer since 2019.

Footfall is expected to drop by 9.3% across all retail destinations next week, but high streets will see 10% fewer shoppers and shopping centres will receive 13% fewer visitors, according to analysts Springboard.

Diane Wehrle, director of insights at Springboard, said: “The planned rail strikes are likely to encourage those who can hybrid work to work from home, and therefore footfall in towns and cities is likely to decrease – on the particular strike days but also on non-strike days, due to delays that are likely to be caused on non-strike days due to trains being in the wrong place."

Industrial action by the RMT union will also affect signalling boxes – essential infrastructure without which the network cannot run.

ScotRail service delivery director David Simpson said: “It is very unfortunate to see such widespread disruption across the whole of the Great Britain rail network and we know this will be frustrating for ScotRail customers.

“Regrettably, this strike action by RMT members of Network Rail means that we will not be able to operate the vast majority of our services during the period of strike action.

“We’re reminding customers to expect significant disruption to services this week, including on the days between and following strike action which will impact customers travelling to events across the country.

“On the five routes where we are able to operate a very limited service on strike days, we’re urging customers to only travel if they really need to, and to seek alternative means of transport where possible.”