Rail passengers in Britain have been warned that they could face unrest on Saturday despite the cancellation of a series of planned strikes.
The RMT union said Friday afternoon that a three-day industrial strike by its thousands of Network Rail members, scheduled to take place on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays on lines across the country, will not continue.
The union said it had held unconditional talks with Network Rail and promised to make a payment offer from the train operators.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “The threat of a strike and our heavily backed industrial campaign have made railroad employers see meaning. We have always wanted to secure a negotiated settlement, and that is what we will continue to push for in this next phase of intense talks.
“Our priority is our members, and we are working towards securing a deal on job security, decent pay raise and good working conditions. Our redistribution of funds remains alive and if we have to take strike action over the next six months to secure a deal, we will.”
Tim Scheufeller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, welcomed the announcement but said it was too late to restore services on Saturday, and it would remain “very limited”.
Special strike schedules will largely remain in place on Monday but operators are hopeful services will return to normal after that.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “It is positive that the RMT leadership has stepped back from the brink and called off its strike. Our advice remains to check before travel and on Saturdays and Mondays only travel by rail if necessary.
“We remain committed to extensive negotiations to agree on the reforms needed to improve reliability, increase wages for our employees, and return the industry to a sustainable financial footing.”
Merceryl said its services would partially return on Saturday as a result of the strike being called off.
Rugby fans traveling to Cardiff for Wales’ match against New Zealand will be among those affected by Saturday’s disruption.
RMT said Network Rail had originally announced the closure of discussions and consultations and was intent on forcing changes to maintenance without an agreement with the union.
“They have now stepped back and will continue discussions on the basis that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,'” she added. “This removes the reason for the current stage of work and means that talks can continue without preconditions set by the company unilaterally.”
Transportation Secretary Mark Harper said: “This is a positive development for travelers across the country but the very late notice means, unfortunately, that there is still significant disruption across the network tomorrow and into Monday.
We encourage unions and employers to continue their negotiations, and the cancellation of these strikes gave those talks a better chance of succeeding. It is critical, for travelers and workers alike, that all parties continue to work together and deliver a modern railway of which we are all proud.”
The TSSA announced that it has called off rail strikes planned for November 5, 7, 8 and 9 after receiving a call for “intense talks” from the rail delivery group.
TSSA members were to go on strike at five different railway companies on different days during the period.
Frank Ward, its interim general secretary, said: “We have always said that strikes are a last resort, and we are happy to finally be invited to the first set of formal talks with train operators in months. However, it is ridiculous that the call was only issued less than six hours before our strikes began. .
“This will disrupt rail travel over the weekend, as train companies will not have time to return canceled services. This could have been completely avoided if the rail delivery group, DOT payers and Transportation Secretary Mark Harper had invited us for talks in sooner.”