Network Rail has insisted it will not improve its pay deal for staff in an ultimatum that raises the specter of strike action lasting throughout the summer and into the autumn.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of the state-backed owner of tracks and stations, has today told staff that there are “no significantly better deals.”
In an internal email to staff, seen by The Telegraph, Mr Haines said that last week’s pay offer of an average of 5pc is the best Network Rail can offer.
“Anyone who truly believes that there can be a pay offer that meets or exceeds the highest levels of inflation for a generation, is not being realistic,” he said.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT), the protagonist of the industrial action to date, rejected the Network Rail deal and announced a fresh wave of walkouts on July 27, and August 18 and 20.
Drivers union Aslef will also strike on July 30.
Mr Haines continued: “I have to level with you; there are no significantly better deals out there for us right now. I am sorry, I know that’s not what you want to hear with inflation as high as it is. But it is true.
“Commuters and business travelers show no signs of returning to their pre-pandemic travel habits. And that’s what forms the backbone of the railway’s fares income.
“In fact, it’s worse than that. If talks break down now, our financial situation gets worse. The cost of strike action has already exceeded £100m – as well as causing misery for millions of passengers and harming the reputation of our railway. Each of those pounds lost is a pound we can no longer give to you through a pay offer.
“I don’t say this as a threat, it’s simply the reality we face.”
The RMT has previously warned that it has a mandate to bombard commuters with waves of strikes until Christmas.
Asked if last month if passengers should expect a “long fight”, Mr Lynch told the i newspaper: “That may have to be the way that is, I hope that’s not the case, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence at the moment that it’s going to go any other way.”
Last week’s Network Rail “final offer” included a 5pc pay rise, heavily discounted train travel for family members and cash bonuses of up to £900. The state-owned company also ruled out compulsory redundancies for the next two years.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of RMT said: “The offer from Network Rail represents a real terms pay cut for our members, and the paltry sum is conditional on RMT members agreeing to drastic changes in their working lives.”
Train operators are yet to offer similar terms.