The RMT says the government is blocking progress on rail strike talks

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The RMT is in a dispute over the role of the guard (Source: Getty)

A wave of strike action has kicked off today across four train operators this morning, with more planned on Thursday 5 October in a long-running row over guards.

And this morning, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the government was blocking progress in rail strike talks.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Theresa May today, the RMT's general secretary Mick Cash said: "I am now becoming increasingly alarmed that you are sabotaging deals with the RMT on Southern, Northern and Anglia Trains, and also South Western Railway.

Read more: Everything you need to know about today's rail strikes

"I do not say this lightly as a number of train operating companies are privately indicating to me that that it is the government that is preventing the deals that in normal circumstances they would be able to make with the RMT."

Cash said there had been "a coordinated blockade of the normal talks process with the rail companies in England since Theresa May became Prime Minister".

Walkouts are being held on Southern rail, Arriva Rail North, which trades as Northern, Greater Anglia and Merseyrail. 

Train operators, however, have criticised the strike action, with Merseyrail managing director Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde saying the walkouts also coincide with the major upgrade to Lime Street mainline station.

He said it was used as a time to "double up the inconvenience for passengers".

"So while the industry and key players in the city region work hard to improve the railway, the RMT seems to be doing everything in its power to stop it," the Merseyrail boss added. "Doesn’t the RMT want the Liverpool City Region to succeed?"

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister discussed Britain's railways on the Andrew Marr Show, saying: "I recognise that not everything's perfect and if you're on Southern railways, you almost certainly think that with all the strikes and disruptions that they have had.

"But I can remember the days when the railways were nationalised and what people get today is a far better service than what they got on the nationalised railways."

In a separate dispute, members of train drivers' union Aslef plan to strike for 24 hours on Thursday 5 October too, in a row over working conditions. Transport for London (TfL) has warned the whole Underground network will face substantial disruption should it go ahead. 

Read more: Here's what you need to know about the upcoming Tube strike