ransport Secretary Grant Shapps has vowed not to back down over rail and Tube strikes despite the chaos caused to passengers.
Mr Shapps has urged the Rail, Maritime and Transport union to accept Network Rail’s proposal of an eight per cent pay rise over two years to resolve the dispute after multiple walk outs.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch should also agree to proposed reforms to modernise the railway sector, he insisted.
In an interview with The Times, Shapps said of Lynch: “I genuinely think [these strikes are] the culmination of years of just not dealing with some very, very fundamental issues with the unions.
“Lynch actually says ‘we hanker after the days of union power’ and because [unions] have had such a whip hand over passengers, eventually governments and rail operators are just going to say, ‘Eurgh, this is too much hassle’. They’ve been able to just carry on with unbelievably outdated practices.”
He added: “There are things you hear and you think, ‘No! That’s not actually true!’ Like the Network Rail teams who maintain Euston are not allowed to walk or drive for five minutes to King’s Cross, because the warranty says those are in two different regions. Or you can’t run a Sunday service on all our rail lines, because a 1919 agreement said Sunday was the Sabbath.”
Mr Shapps said he believed the RMT chief was “a perfectly OK guy who thinks he’s doing the right thing”.
But in his role, he would be failing the travelling public by allowing dangerous maintenance procedures.
He highlighted the unions’ insistence that tracks be inspected by workers “rather than machines that can take 70,000 pictures a minute”.
“Every year I have to read Rail Accident Investigation Branch reports into someone who was hit by a train inspecting a track,” Shapps said.
Mr Lynch has rejected suggestions that rail workers would agree to the offer on the table if the union put it to a vote.
He said earlier this month: “Our members are not going to be bribed, the offer is puny and they’re not ready to accept it.”
Lynch claimed public support for the dispute is “entrenching”.
“There are campaigns and rallies being launched right across the country in support of these type of activities,” he said.
“I think the British public are fed up of being ripped off by this Government and by corporate Britain, which have seen companies like BP and British Gas making massive profits while people are struggling to make a living.”