A BITTER dispute between a trade union and rail firms is set to bring more disruption to the trains in Wales today, Thursday.

Wales' chief rail operator, however, is not involved in the strikes - but across the nation, nearly all of its trains will be out of service for the day.

This is because Network Rail is one of the companies currently in dispute with the RMT union, which has thousands of members taking industrial action this week over pay and job cut disputes.

Network Rail owns and manages most of the UK's tracks, tunnels, signals and other infrastructure - meaning Transport for Wales is powerless to run trains on the lines while Network Rail staff are on strike.

The Welsh Government has made frequent calls for the nation's rail infrastructure to be devolved - something Westminster has rebuffed, but that is sure to be a point raised again following this week's travel chaos.

To complicate things, Mark Drakeford has claimed that some Wales-based employees of Network Rail - an arms-length UK Government agency - were shuttled into England to keep services open there.

He told the Senedd this week: "Network Rail have removed some of the staff, who could have been available to make trains run in Wales, in order to keep trains running in England."

Mr Drakeford called the move "a decision of [the UK] Government, to deny people in Wales the opportunity to travel - where there is no dispute - by removing those workers to look after what clearly is for them a higher priority than Welsh citizens will ever be".

The first minister also called for parties to try and settle the dispute, saying "consensus is the only way in which disputes are ever resolved".

Fresh talks between the RMT union, Network Rail, and 13 rail companies took place on Wednesday, to try and find a breakthrough in the dispute.

For the union, this week's industrial action is about wider "austerity" policies it claims are being forced on the rail sector by the UK Government.

“RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and Government policy," said RMT general secretary Mick Lynch.

“Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.”

But a spokesperson for the UK Government's Department of Transport called its proposals "desperately needed reforms that modernise the railway and put it on a sustainable footing for passengers and taxpayers".

A Network Rail official said the planned reforms would "reduce roles by around 1,800, the vast majority of which will be lost through voluntary severance and natural wastage".