SCOTLAND faces a second day of a crippling rail strike after talks between unions and managers in the UK-wide Network Rail dispute broke down in a bitter new turn.

Talks were held on Wednesday between the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Network Rail and rail operators in a bid to break the deadlocked row as services across Scotland were cut in half on Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday's strike.

The RMT s dispute with Network Rail - which owns the UK's rail tracks, stations and signals – is over plans to axe hundreds of critical maintenance jobs, pay and working conditions.

It comes as an emergency timetable, which has cut nationalised ScotRail services by up by a third on weekdays due to staff shortages, remains in place across the Scottish network in a separate ScotRail dispute over pay with the train drivers union Aslef. A pay offer is due to be put to drivers.

The RMT accused the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “wrecking” negotiations.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.

But Mr Shapps hit back saying he had not made any intervention accusing the union of a "total lie".

The union says Network Rail is planning to cut  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.

Mr Lynch said:“Until the Government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.

“We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.”

HeraldScotland:

ScotRail had warned all rail users to check their trains are operating as hundreds were  being cancelled across the ScotRail network on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday  the day after scheduled strike days.

That is the result of the combined knock-on effects of the Network Rail strikes and the emergency timetable brought in because of a separate ScotRail train drivers' work-to-rule.

RMT members at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on Thursday following a stoppage on Tuesday, crippling large parts of the rail network, including ScotRail services and cross-border journeys.  Another stoppage is planned for Saturday.

The Thursday stoppage will hit the first day of the Royal Highland show in Ingliston.

On Wednesday, a further 264 services were cut – on top of its temporary timetable - brought in by the seperate train drivers' dispute - that has already halted around 700, or one third, of daily services.

On Thursday as on Tuesday, just five ScotRail routes will be in service, with the last train to depart well before 6.30pm.

Around 20% of cross-border journeys will be running with all services operating between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

 Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said in response to the RMT claim: “This is a total lie from the RMT and its General Secretary. I have had absolutely nothing to do with either the issuing of a letter from Network Rail, the employer, to the RMT - or any request to withdraw it.

“I understand that the letter makes no mention of 2,900 redundancies, but I do know it confirmed Network Rail would be introducing desperately needed reforms for the industry after the union chose strike action instead of further talks.

“The RMT continues to deflect from the fact that the only people responsible for the massive public disruption this week is them.

“I want to urge Mick Lynch and his members to stop wasting time making false claims in the media and instead return to the negotiating table so an agreement can be reached.”

It emerged that on the first day of the strike, the number of people using First buses in Glasgow increased by 13% on Tuesday, compared to the same day last week.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson: “We are very disappointed that the RMT leadership has decided to go ahead with tomorrow’s strikes. With passenger numbers still at only 80% of pre-pandemic levels the industry remains committed to giving a fair deal on pay while taking no more than its fair share from taxpayers.

“We can only achieve that by making improvements – like offering better services on a Sunday – that reflect the changing needs of passengers so we can attract more back. We call on the RMT leadership to continue to talk so that we can secure a thriving long-term future for the railway and its workforce.

“Our advice to passengers remains the same, only travel by rail if absolutely necessary, check before you travel and make sure you know the time of your first and last trains.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the RMT have again chosen to walk away from negotiations without agreeing a deal. We remain available for talks – day or night – and will do everything we can to avoid further disruption for our passengers.

“As a result of this needless and premature strike, rail services tomorrow will look much like they did on Tuesday – starting later in the morning and finishing much earlier in the evening (around 6.30pm).

“We are asking passengers to please check before you travel, be conscious of when your last available train is departing, and only travel by train if necessary.”

Earlier Dominic Raab said the Government had to “hold the line” against the RMT’s demands for improved pay and conditions on the railways.

The justice secretary said the strikes were “deeply regrettable” and reform was necessary on the railways.

“We’ve, of course, got to reform the way the railways operate, given the new ways to working on the effect that has on commuter travel,” he told LBC Radio. “But there are also old practices, which frankly, are well out of date and unnecessary, which need to be reformed.”

He added: “I think Network Rail are taking the right approach. We know that the cost of living challenge is there, we know that it affects workers across the board.

“But the one thing that will keep inflation higher for longer and undermine pay packets for longer is if we have spiralling public sector pay increases beyond what is responsible. And that’s what’s at issue here.

“It is precisely to protect the wages of those on the lowest incomes that we need to hold the line.”