Network Rail boss ‘not wildly optimistic’ as strike talks resume

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Rail chiefs are “not wildly optimistic” of a breakthrough to avoid strikes on Thursday as they criticised a “sense of entitlement” among trade union leaders.

Talks restarted on Wednesday over an industrial dispute that led to the biggest shutdown of Britain’s train network in a generation this week.

But Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said he was not hopeful that a deal could be struck before the next day of industrial action on Thursday.

He told The Telegraph: “Are we wildly optimistic? No. Are we fighting to find a way through this? Absolutely.”

Industry sources have claimed that union leaders are clinging onto archaic working practices that mean tasks such as  “changing a plug socket” would take a team of nine workers.

Among the other working practices union chiefs are determined to defend are rail workers being entitled to “walking time allowance” of 12 minutes for a one minute walk and engineers being unable to stray 500 yards from their dedicated patch, sources said. 

Mr Haines said such working practices were “a reflection of just how introspective parts of Britain’s railways are”.

He added: “And that’s what is so catastrophic about these strikes.

“A sense of entitlement that doesn’t want to address the fact that the railways are facing a £2bn deficit.

“If we maintain that, that signs the death knell to our industry. We will become increasingly irrelevant. That’s why we have to say: ‘There is a way forward on this where we modernise and we create safer, but better value, jobs.’”

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