It is the first time in the long and bitter dispute between train operators – represented by the RDG – has tabled a formal offer to the main rail union.
The offer is designed to allow the RMT to present a figure of 8 per cent while the government can insist that, on an annual basis, the pay rise amounts to only 4 per cent.
The deal is merely a “framework agreement” – detailed negotiations are still needed between each of the 14 train operators with whom the RMT union is currently in dispute.
But the sticking point is likely to be what the RDG calls “vital and long overdue changes to working arrangements necessary to secure the future of the industry”. They include changes that the RMT has long been opposed to, including the closure of station ticket offices and driver-controlled operation of train doors – also known as DOO.
The rail writer Philip Haig said: “I reckon even talk of DOO will sink this offer long before RMT allows its members a vote.”
The Independent has asked the union for a response.
The dates for the next round of national strikes are scheduled for 13-14 and 16-17 December, plus 3-4 and 6-7 January. Between the pre-Christmas and post-New Year strikes, from 18 December to 2 January, the RMT union will ban overtime.
Unless some sort of deal can be found by Tuesday 6 December, cancellations of trains will begin
If the stoppage goes ahead it will constitute the biggest sustained industrial action on the railways since 1989.
So far this year the RMT has called 11 days of national strikes. In October three days of walk-outs were called off at short notice, but widespread disruption was still felt over the course of a week.
In addition, white-collar staff for many train operators and Network Rail plan industrial action, while Eurostar security staff have announced a pre-Christmas walk-out.
Train drivers working for around a dozen rail firms – including intercity giants Avanti West Coast, GWR and LNER – have so far staged five days of national action.
Regionally, a range of industrial action from overtime bans to local walk-outs are causing further disruption, while Eurostar could be hit by a strike by security staff on the busiest days before Christmas.
The effects of these strikes is now well established. The walk-out by around 5,000 Network Rail signallers means half the rail network will be closed, with a much-reduced service on the remainder of lines.
Jake Kelly, Network Rail’s director of operations, said: “The RMT is going to inflict on our country, our passengers and our industry an unprecedented and sustained period of rail disruption across the entire festive period that will have a massive impact on businesses and our economy.
“The rail industry is already well advanced in its planning and will do all it can to run as many services as it can across the Christmas and New Year period. But passengers need to be prepared for weeks of disruption as a result of the RMT’s chosen course of action.”