A “renewed offer” will be on the table during emergency talks to prevent more rail strikes, Transport Minister Mark Harper said.

On Thursday, representatives of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail companies, will meet the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the Transport Salaried Workers’ Association (TSSA) in a fresh bid to break the impasse.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the drivers’ union Aslef, told the Commons transport committee on Wednesday that there was “nil” chance of a solution.

But Mr Harper later said it was “unfair” as the situation had “moved on”.

I hope that we will make some progress in the coming daysMark Harper, Minister for Transport

He told ITV’s Peston: “I hope now that there’s a renewed offer on the table it (a deal) can happen and we’ve seen confirmation today.

“The evidence that has been given to the Transport Committee is that there are negotiations between various unions and companies and I hope that we will make some progress in the coming days.”

Rail union leaders launched a scathing attack on the government when they gave evidence to a committee, accusing ministers of unleashing a bitter row over jobs, pay and working conditions and blocking deals to resolve the dispute.

Former transport minister Grant Shapps was criticized by representatives of three trade unions.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, said the long-running conflict was “engineered” by the Department for Transport (DfT).

“This is Shaps’s project – the dispute was bequeathed to be dealt with by us,” he told the deputies.

Mr. Whelan was asked to rate how close the situation was to resolution on a scale of one to 10.

He replied: “I think you can include zero. We are further than when we started.”

Mr Whelan also criticized the way Rail Delivery Group made the offer last Friday afternoon, saying it was first leaked to some media outlets and contained details that “shattered” agreements with the union.

Mr Lynch added: “We don’t have an agreement. Until we get an agreement, we’re not close to that.”

He said nine points had been added to the proposal made last month, calling it “sabotage” and blaming the DfT.

Mr Lynch and Mr Whelan have made it clear that their unions will never accept DOO jobs on the railway.

The RMT boss told the committee that the railway had been “extremely damaged” because of the government.

“The damage has been considered and is being monitored by the Department of Transport.

“This is their project, they knew there was going to be an industrial response from the unions, they decided to take what they thought was a big leap forward and provoke the workforce and attack the workforce.”

He claimed the DfT has a “Stalinian obsession with central control”, adding: “What we get from the DfT is provocation – provocation in the language as well as what’s in the documents.”

Rail Delivery Group’s Steve Montgomery told the committee that talks with Aslef were “further behind” than with other unions, but added that further talks would be held on Thursday to reach an agreement.

He said the group should “seek permission” from the government before making proposals aimed at resolving the dispute.

Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveler rated progress in ending the dispute with the RMT as seven out of 10 after the offer was rejected last month.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This Government is not holding back negotiations, but is committed to helping unions and employers reach an agreement and avoid further strikes, while delivering much-needed reforms that will put our railways on a sound financial footing for the future.

“The industry has put forward fair and reasonable pay proposals and to facilitate progress the government has held meetings between all parties to end this damaging dispute.”


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