Ministers are facilitating eleventh-hour talks with rail unions as demands for driver-operated doors emerge as a major sticking point.
Train operators and representatives from the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) are today locked in discussions after an 8pc pay rise was rejected on Sunday evening.
Government sources said ministers were working in the background to help facilitate a resolution. Representatives for train operators are leading the talks, however, they added.
Union leaders were left enraged on Sunday evening after train operators made the nationwide implementation of driver-operated doors as a condition of an 8pc pay deal.
Industry sources said that driver-operated doors, which negates the need for a guard on-board some services, was a "red line" for unions.
"They would not agree to a 20pc pay rise if that was left in there," a source said.
Train operators and unions are now frantically trying to find a breakthrough before the end of play today, when strike rosters for next Tuesday's industrial action are effectively set in stone.
That's all for today. Thanks for following along and tune in again tomorrow for more market updates. Before you go, here's some of our top stories from today:
Toyota launches six electric cars as it backs away from hydrogen
Toyota, the world’s biggest car maker, has launched six new electric models in a sign of shifting focus from its previous bet on hydrogen as the green fuel of the future.
My colleague Howard Mustoe writes:
Toyota will sell the new plug-ins in Europe by 2026 as part of a plan to comply with targets within the bloc to phase out petrol and diesel sales by 2035.
The company, known for its Prius hybrid, threw its weight behind hydrogen when it launched the Mirai in 2014, a large family car with a range of more than 300 miles.
But the fuel has not enjoyed a wide take up. Despite faster refuelling than for battery cars, hydrogen pumps are few and far between and the gas has been largely confined to buses and other vehicles which return to a base where they refuel each day.
Footasylum opens first store since JD Sports sale
Shoe retailer Footasylum has opened its first store since it was sold by JD Sports, as it hailed a "strong pipeline" of new shops even amid fears cost-of-living pressures will force customers to cut back.
Footasylum said it was opening the store in Brookfield Shopping Park in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, months after the purchase by private equity firm Aurelius Group completed. This is the first shop it has opened since April 2021.
JD Sports was forced to sell Footasylum by UK competition regulators following a lengthy investigation into its initial takeover. It had bought the retailer for £90m in 2019, and sold it at £37.5m in August this year.
Footasylum said it was planning more openings next year to add to its 60-strong estate, and said it was currently experiencing "strong demand" in the run up to Christmas.
PwC to shut offices over Christmas to save energy
Accountancy giant PwC is shutting most of its offices in Britain over Christmas and New Year for the first time to save energy as power supplies come under mounting pressure this winter.
The group - which employs around 24,000 staff and has 19 sites across the UK - said it would shut its main London office at Embankment Place, while a number of its regional offices will also close between December 23 and January 3.
PwC said there would be workspaces in nearby offices for staff who want to go into the workplace during those times.
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said the group wanted to "do our bit to reduce energy consumption".
Shein to invest $15m in improving factories
Chinese fashion retailer Shein has pledged to pour $15m (£12.3m) into upgrading factories in its supply chain, as it said it had found two sites were workers were staying longer than local regulations allowed for.
Shein said the cash would go into improving the suppliers' factories, and had cut orders from two of its producers by three-quarters until they complied with its "code of conduct".
It follows an investigation by Shein which found that in two of its factories, the maximum working hours were 13.5 per day and 12.5 per day respectively. The former had workers taking at least two to three days off per month, with the latter did not have a fixed structure for days-off. Shein had conducted the investigation following a documentary on its supply chain.
It said: "While these are significantly less than claimed in the documentary, they are still higher than local regulations permit. Shein has therefore given both suppliers until the end of December to rectify the situation and reserves the right to take action against them if they fail to do so by then."
Sky moves in to home insurance to steal a march on its streaming competitors
Sky is to start selling home insurance as the media giant tries to branch away from TV amid fierce competition from streaming rivals.
As my colleague James Warrington reports:
It is understood the company will begin selling insurance products on price comparison sites from this week ahead of a full rollout in January.
The venture, dubbed Sky Protect, will be underwritten by Zurich UK and will initially be available as a standalone product.
The launch marks Sky’s first move into Britain’s £7bn home insurance market and reflects efforts by bosses to broaden its customer base with new offerings.
Disney to be replaced in Russia by new station
Disney Channel will soon be replaced in Russia by a new children's TV station called "Solntse".
Solntse, which means "sun" in Russian, will start broadcasting at 6am on Dec 14, according to its parent company Media1, airing films, animations and "all-Russian" TV shows.
Among its post-premiere line-up are Western-made feature films such as "Snowflake, the White Gorilla" and "Family Heist", as well as Russian-made comedies such as "Breakfast at Dad's" and "Kitchen in Paris".
Disney Channel, Russia's second highest rated children's TV station, is set to stop broadcasting after more than 12 years.
Disney said in March that it was pausing all business in Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including content and product licensing, but that some channels would take time to pause due to contractual nuances.
B&Q eyes rollout of dozens of convenience stores across UK
B&Q is expanding its presence on the high street with new B&Q Local convenience stores, while rising costs force many other retailers to close shops.
My colleague Daniel Woolfson has the details:
The DIY and home improvement retail giant has been trialling smaller high street stores since 2020, but now plans to launch two stores in London's Palmers Green and Camden districts with the new name in the first quarter of 2023.
They will be the first to bear the B&Q Local brand, which B&Q recently applied to register as a trademark.
Graham Bell, chief executive of B&Q, said: "Depending on the test and trial we could probably see quite a few - there are 50 odd catchments where we’re not represented. But it’s finding the physical location and getting planning permission."
B&Q's plans to open new shops come as soaring inflation and energy prices are forcing many big retailers to reduce costs by closing shops.
Pound slips as data shows US economy resilient
The pound has lost value against the dollar after growth at US service providers unexpectedly accelerated in November.
The Institute for Supply Management's PMI - a measure of business activity - jumped by the most since March 2021, suggesting the largest part of the economy remains resilient.
The surge in business activity pushed the index, which parallels the ISM's factory output gauge, to the highest level since the end of 2021.
The pound slumped 0.3pc immediately after the news and is down 0.7pc on the day to just above $1.22.
Tesla 'to lower production at Shanghai factory'
Tesla reportedly plans to lower production at its Shanghai factory in the latest sign demand in China is not meeting expectations.
The output cuts will take effect as soon as this week, with sources estimating the move could reduce production by about 20pc from full capacity, according to Bloomberg.
This was the rate at which the factory ran in October and November.
The decision was made after the automaker evaluated its near-term performance in the domestic market, one of the people said, adding that there’s flexibility to increase output if demand increases.
A Tesla representative in China declined to comment.
The carmaker's shares fell 4.6pc to $185.83. The stock is down about 47pc this year.
Plans to take stablecoin provider public cancelled
The investment vehicle run by former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has cancelled plans to take crypto company Circle public in the latest blow to the digital asset sector.
Concord Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company of which Mr Diamond is chairman, will no longer go-ahead with a merger with Circle, which runs USD coin, a US dollar-pegged stablecoin.
Circle had announced plans in July 2021 to become a publicly-listed business via a merger with Concord Acquisition Corp. That was scrapped today.
Mr Diamond said: "I remain confident in Circle's regulatory-first approach to building trust and transparency in the financial industry, which has never been more important, and I will continue being an advocate for the company as it continues to grow."
Jeremy Allaire, co-founder and chief executive of Circle, said:
Concord has been a strong partner and has added value throughout this process, and we will continue to benefit from the advice and support of Bob Diamond and the broader Concord team.
We are disappointed the proposed transaction timed out, however, becoming a public company remains part of Circle's core strategy to enhance trust and transparency, which has never been more important.
Britain sending gas to Europe in rare role reversal
Britain is sending natural gas to mainland Europe at a time when the fuel would typically be kept at home, in a rare role reversal as a cold snap boosts demand.
UK flows through the Interconnector pipeline to Belgium, the biggest of the two links between the regions, are the highest for the time of year since at least 2016.
That is unusual for December, when exports normally stop or even reverse as it gets colder and heating demand jumps in Britain.
As the European Union cuts its reliance on Russian gas, Britain's North Sea production, ample supplies from Norway and liquefied natural gas terminals make a good substitute.
UK gas prices have also been lower than in Europe in the past few months, which has spurred traders to keep exporting to the continent.
It comes as natural gas prices in Europe jumped as a cold snap boosted demand for the fuel, eroded reserves and drove worries about supply risks.
Benchmark futures surged as much as 9.2pc today, with unseasonably cold temperatures expected to stay in northwest Europe and Britain for at least two more weeks.
Wall Street opens lower
Wall Street's main markets opened lower as investors awaited more data to gauge the Federal Reserve's next move at its rate-setting meeting later this month.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.6pc to 34,223.05, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.7pc to 4,044.43.
The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite was down 0.8pc to 11,394.97.
Social housing landlord faces calls for board to quit
Social housing landlord Home REIT is facing calls for a new leadership team from an activist shareholder in the wake of an attack from a short seller last month.
The Boatman Capital Research has published an open letter calling for members of the board to resign.
In the letter, addressed to director Simon Moore, Boatman detailed a string of concerns, including that the landlord failed to conduct sufficient due diligence on some of its tenants and inflated the value of its property portfolio.
Home REIT's share price has tumbled 33pc to 51.3p since short seller Viceroy Research published a report last month questioning the financial health and governance of the business. Its stock price is down 40pc since September.
Its shares are down 5.1pc today.
New strike day adds to rail chaos
Next week's wave of strikes just got worse after union leaders said engineers would walk out on Great Western Railway.
Unite said the workers will take action on Dec 15 on the line, which connects London to the west of England and parts of Wales.
Strikes have already been announced by members of the RMT for Dec 13, 14, 16 and 17 across much of the network.
Workers represented by the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association are also walking out on those days.
Pound falls from earlier highs
The pound has edged off multi-month highs against the dollar as traders, investors and analysts started to speculate whether the greenback's recent bout of weakness was coming to an end.
Sterling, which hit a more than five month high of $1.235 in Asian trading, dropped at much as 0.5pc to $1.223. It is presently flat at just below $1.23.
Trading has become choppier in recent weeks as the dollar fell from the multi-decade highs it reached against most peers earlier in the year.
Investors had started to hope the US Federal Reserve's December meeting will mark the start of a slower pace of increases - boosting rival currencies - but markets appear less confident in that outcome after figures on Friday showed wage rises are persisting.
No 10 refuses to rule out legislation to curb strike impact
Downing Street would not rule out expanding legislation aimed at curbing the impact of strikes.
Legislation on imposing minimum service levels on transport services during strikes has already been put forward, although MPs have not begun debating it.
While there are no current plans to widen its scope, No 10 said the situation was being kept under review. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said:
Our focus on legislation with regards to strikes is on minimum service levels, the Bill that we introduced in October is the first step in achieving this.
We are keeping under review what is the right balance with regards to strikes. We won't hesitate to bring forward changes if we judge they are required.
Wall Street poised to fall at opening bell
US futures slipped as uncertainty about the path of American rate policy stifled potential gains from China's move to ease Covid restrictions.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrials and the S&P 500 were each down about 0.4pc before the bell, while those on the Nasdaq 100 were down 0.3pc.
Treasury yields climbed, lifting the dollar into positive territory. The two-year rate most sensitive to policy rose to the highest this month.
A hotter-than-expected US jobs report last week along with a jump in average hourly earnings point to fresh inflation risks and more bond volatility.
The S&P 500 is on course for its biggest fourth-quarter gain since 1999 amid hopes that US inflation has peaked and bond yields have stabilized.
RMT rejected 'the right offer', says Downing Street
Downing Street has urged the RMT union to "think again" over strikes which threaten to bring travel chaos to the rail network over Christmas.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) offered an 8pc pay rise and guarantee of no compulsory redundancies before April 2024 but it was rejected by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said it was the "right offer".
Asked whether Rishi Sunak wanted the RMT to put the offer to its membership, the spokesman said:
That fundamentally is a decision for the RMT.
But we do think this is the right offer, it is a significant improvement on what they were offered before and we are confident it represents a good offer for their membership that provides them a significant uplift in pay and certainty they will get a further uplift the following year.
The spokesman said the strikes could still be avoided: "We continue to urge the RMT to think again. There is still time."
How workers became ‘unsackable’ despite a looming recession
The coming downturn may not see a wave of job losses. Tom Rees explains why:
The economy may be faltering but the biggest problem for Andy Walker's engineering firm is one usually associated with a boom: too few workers.
"Everyone you speak to in the industry seems to be struggling to get trades people," says Walker, managing director of Lancashire-based Walker Engineering.
"I think we lost a lot [of workers] in Covid around the 60 year age that decided enough was enough."
Workers enjoyed a golden period in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, as a shortage of staff helped bid up wages across the economy and drove a glut of job hopping.
Many may fear the era of the almost "unsackable" worker is ending almost as quickly as it began. But employers and economists say this downturn could avoid the wave of job losses typically seen in a recession.
Meet the farmer turning number plates into a cash cow
A business-brained cattle farmer is making hay while the sun shines selling farm-themed number plates.
Erica Crompton has the details:
A personalised registration number won't make a jot of difference to the speed of your vehicle, but one in 12 Britons has splashed out on them.
Now, the newest car fad not only bolsters your status but, with a dash of humour, it also proves you’re not a stick-in-the-mud.
From HI6 MOO and HAY 8OY to BA12 HAY, farm-inspired number plates are here, courtesy of business-brained beef farmer Olly Hares.
You may have seen one already driving along a mud-splattered country lane or got a whiff of HU63 POO when picking up your free-range turkey from the farm this winter.
Ticket and station staff discuss Network Rail offer
Separately to the RMT negotiations, the executive of the union that represents ticket and station staff will also meet this afternoon to discuss the Network Rail offer.
A spokesman for the TSSA said on Sunday night:
We are glad that the Government has finally given authority to the employers to make offers in an attempt to resolve our dispute.
We are considering the details of these offers very carefully and will be consulting our reps tomorrow.
'Genuine optimism' RMT could be forced into ballot on deal
The RMT has delayed a meeting of its national executive this morning until this afternoon, writes Oliver Gill.
That meet was scheduled to consider a separate 9pc pay deal offered by Network Rail.
Industry sources said there was genuine optimism that the RMT would be forced to put the Network Rail deal to a ballot of its members.
They said there would be a "rebellion" among RMT members if they were not allowed to vote on a 9pc wage increase at a time when they would forgo eight days of pay for strikes over Christmas.
Discussions between the RMT and train operators are not as advanced as those with Network Rail, the company that owns rail infrastructure such as stations, tracks and signals.
But with the assistance of the Government, which until now has sought to steer clear of the dispute, a deal between operators and the RMT could be struck that would also be sufficient to convince the union’s national executive to put it to the ballot.
The RMT has 40,000 members, split roughly 50/50 between Network Rail and train operators.
Thames Water profits near £400m despite leaks
Thames Water made nearly £400m in profit over the last six months despite a jump in leaks amid hot summer weather.
The utilities giant said it showed "good progress" in its recent turnaround programme following a series of operational changes.
The firm revealed that pre-tax profits leapt to £398m for the six months to the end of September, swinging from a pre-tax loss £581m over the same period last year.
It admitted to an "exceptionally high level of operational incidents resulting from drought" over the period, after hot summer weather which resulted in hosepipe bans.
It saw "deterioration" in water incidents like leaks and supply interruption, although it reported a 43pc reduction in complaints and 29pc fall in backlogs for the period.
Revenues increased by 3% to £1.1 billion for the half-year, driven by increases to its tariffs, it said.
Nearly quarter of people with long-Covid leave labour market
More than 200,000 Britons who left the labour market in the year to July said they were suffering from long-Covid, official data show.
In July, 23.3pc of people aged 16 to 64 years with self-reported long-Covid were economically inactive, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The odds of inactivity, excluding retirement, were about 40pc higher for working-age people reporting long-Covid seven to 12 months after their infection, compared with before they were infected with the virus.
Fixed mortgage rates back below 6pc
The cost of a two-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen below 6pc for the first time in almost nine weeks, as the crisis in lending caused by the mini-Budget eases.
The average two-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.99pc today, according to Moneyfacts.
The last time the rate stood below that threshold was Oct 4 when home loan rates were spiraling in the aftermath of former prime minister Liz Truss's ill-fated fiscal event.
The average five-year fixed-rate deal also fell to 5.78pc, after dropping below 6pc almost a fortnight ago.
It is the latest sign of stabilization in the UK mortgage market, with banks relaxing some repayment terms and distressed asset investors hunting for opportunities.
French and German shoppers hit by cost-of-living crisis
The eurozone has suffered the biggest tumble in retail sales of 2022 as inflation-battered shoppers in Germany and France begin to tighten their belts.
Senior economics reporter Tom Rees has the latest:
Sales slipped 1.8pc in October compared to the previous month as consumers struggled to cope with record inflation in the region.
Consumers in the eurozone have been resilient in the face of soaring living costs but households reined in spending on non-essentials as a gloomy winter approached.
It marked the sharpest monthly drop since December 2021 while sales fell 2.7pc year-on-year.
Of the region's biggest economies, shoppers cut back most in Germany and France with sales sinking 2.8pc and 2.7pc, respectively.
Melanie Debono, economist at Pantheon Macro, warned that retail sales are "in for a rough fourth quarter".
She said: "With services spending, such as on restaurants, also likely easing, as consumers forgo outings to ensure enough funds for energy bills, and consumer confidence still depressed, we think overall household spending will fall in quarter four too."
Oil climbs higher amid price cap
Oil has continued to advance after China made further progress toward reopening, Opec+ kept output steady, and sanctions on Russian crude kicked in.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, and US-produced West Texas Intermediate were both up 1.8pc to $87.14 and $81.48 a barrel respectively.
China's key urban centers including Shanghai announced further easing of Covid restrictions over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Opec+ - the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies - on Sunday agreed to maintain production at current levels, pausing to take stock of the global market.
To further punish Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, the European Union, in tandem with the G7, agreed to cap Russia crude prices at $60 a barrel, while banning most seaborne imports from today.
While penalizing Russia, the price level is meant to encourage continued Russian oil exports. The Kremlin said it is working on a response, and that it will not recognize the rules.
Sainsbury's pledges more to price-cutting drive
Sainsbury's is investing an extra £50m to try to keep down its prices and compete with budget rivals Aldi and Lidl as the cost of living crisis bites.
Britain's second largest supermarket will target £15m of that into making shoppers' Christmas spend more affordable, trying to keep the ingredients for a festive roast at less than £4 per person.
It had already pledged to spend £500m on lowering prices over the next two years.
The company said this is the most the retailer has ever spend on battling price inflation.
UK economy 'faces toughest non-Covid spell since financial crisis'
The UK economy faces its toughest non-Covid spell since the financial crisis, according to a closely-watched survey that signalled the country is in the midst of recession.
Our economics editor Szu Ping Chan has analysed the data:
Activity in Britain's dominant services sector shrank in November amid higher costs, falling new orders and continuing staff shortages, according to the S&P Global UK Services PMI.
The headline reading remained unchanged at 48.8 from October, keeping the index at its lowest level since January 2021 and well below the 50 level that divides growth from contraction.
Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global said the reading was consistent with the economy shrinking by 0.4pc in the final three months of the year. This would follow a 0.2pc contraction confirmed by official figures for the three months to September. Outside the pandemic, this would be the first six month period of decline since 2009.
"This is the toughest spell the UK economy has faced since the global financial crisis excluding only the height of the pandemic," said Mr Williamson.
He added that businesses had pared back hiring plans, with many bosses forced to meet pay demands from existing staff in order to keep them on their payrolls. Many were passing on higher costs to customers, but said stiff competition meant their ability to do this was reaching its limit.
"An overall gloomy mood prevails to restrain business optimism at one of the lowest levels seen over the past decade. Clearly, risks to the near-term outlook remain tilted to the downside of the dominant services sector," said Mr Williamson.
Turkish inflation eases for first time in more than a year
Annual inflation in Turkey slightly eased in November for the first time in more than a year, although it remains close to 24-year highs.
Consumer prices for the year rose by 84.4pc in November, down from 85.5pc recorded in October, the Turkish Statistical Institute announced.
The monthly inflation rate was 2.9pc in November, compared with 3.5pc in the previous month.
It is the first time that annual inflation has eased since May 2021.
While the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have stoked inflation around the world, economists believe that inflation in Turkey was additionally fuelled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's belief that high borrowing costs lead to higher prices. Traditional economic thinking says that raising rates helps rein in inflation.
Turkey's central bank has slashed interest rates by 5 percentage points since August, down to 9pc despite high inflation that has deepened a cost-of-living crisis in the country.
Credit Suisse shares rise amid reports of Saudi Crown Prince investment
Credit Suisse shares climbed as much as 6.4pc in early trading, extending gains after breaking a record 13-day losing streak on Friday.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is preparing to invest around $500m (£407m) as an anchor investor into the Credit Suisse's soon-to-be carved out investment bank, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Other investors may include former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond's Atlas Merchant Capital, according to the report.
The Saudi National Bank, which is 37pc owned by the nation's sovereign wealth fund, is an anchor investor in Credit Suisse's ongoing efforts to raise $4bn (£3.3bn) in capital. It will eventually hold a 9.9pc stake in the bank.
Credit Suisse shares traded at 3.1 Swiss francs (£2.70) in Zurich, and have lost about 63pc of their value this year.
Services sector continues decline in 'toughest spell since financial crisis'
Britain's service sector continued to decline last month, according to new data from an influential survey.
The S&P Global/CIPS UK services PMI survey showed a reading of 48.8 in November, in line with expectations. Any reading above 50 is considered growth, below that means the sector is shrinking.
The score is unchanged from October when the score had been lower than at any time since January 2021, when the UK was still under Covid-19 restrictions.
Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said:
A change of government and its new economic policies may have helped arrest some of the financial market volatility after September's 'mini-budget' but the economic picture remains stubbornly unchanged.
The overall rate of economic contraction has held steady compared to October, indicative of GDP falling at a quarterly rate of 0.4pc.
As such, this is the toughest spell the UK economy has faced since the global financial crisis excluding only the height of the pandemic.
iPhone maker 'to be fully up-and-running in late December or January'
Apple supplier Foxconn expects its Covid-hit Zhengzhou plant in China to resume full production around late December to early January, after worker unrest last month disrupted the world's biggest iPhone factory.
The world's largest contract electronics maker said revenue in November fell 11.4pc year on year reflecting production problems related to Covid-19 controls at the major iPhone factory.
In a statement, it said the "overall epidemic situation has been brought under control", adding it has started to recruit new employees and was gradually "restoring production capacity to normal".
Foxconn said November revenue for its smart consumer electronics business, which includes smartphones, declined year on year partly due to a portion of shipments being impacted by production disruptions in Zhengzhou. It did not elaborate.
The Zhengzhou plant has been grappling with strict Covid-19 restrictions that have fuelled discontent among workers over conditions at the factory.
New car registrations up nearly a quarter
New car registrations increased by 23.5pc in November compared to the same month last year according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
There were 142,889 new cars registered last month but the total number for the year is still 3.4pc off the pace of the numbers at the same time in 2021.
Diesels have suffered the biggest fall in demand, with new registrations down nearly 40pc on the same time last year, while electric vehicles enjoyed a 38pc increase, with their market share standing at 10.6pc.
RMT demands to meet rail bosses today after rejecting 8pc pay rise
Union chiefs will meet with negotiators representing train operators today in a last ditch effort to avoid strikes that will cause chaos over Christmas.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) demanded a meeting with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents 14 train operators, after rejecting an eight per cent pay offer.
Further negotiations will go ahead today as rail bosses try to avoid walkouts later this month that threaten to wreck the holiday travel plans of millions of people.
Rail strikes are set to go ahead on Dec 13 and 14, and again on Dec 16 and 17.
Although the strikes are a week away, reaching an agreement is urgent because around a week's notice is needed to alter driver schedules.
Sir Keir Starmer called for both sides to give ground in the talks.
The Labour leader told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "Both sides need to compromise, both sides need to finish the negotiations and the Government needs to drive them forward."
Meanwhile, Network Rail offered a 9pc pay rise to the RMT with no compulsory redundancies until Jan 2025.
The RMT national executive will meet later this morning to consider the Network Rail offer.
Prudential and Vodafone lead way on FTSE 100
The export-oriented FTSE 100 has edged higher after a slow start after the CBI warned a recession will likely last until the end of next year.
Investors are also on the edge ahead of PMI business activity data for the month of November, which is respected to remain in contraction.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 is up 0.1pc to 7,559.49, with Prudential leading the way, up 3.4pc, followed by Vodafone, which has just revealed the departure of chief executive Nick Read. Its shares were up as much as 2pc.
Meanwhile, the mid-cap FTSE 250 is up 0.1pc to 19,388.94.
China's yuan highest in nearly three months
China's yuan was among the best performers in the currency markets overnight, breaking below the seven per dollar level for the first time in almost three months.
It comes as Chinese leaders take a more pragmatic approach to fighting Covid after recent protests across the country that also called for more political freedoms.
The harsh zero-Covid strategy - which saw major cities including Beijing and Shanghai face lockdowns for months - has been blamed for a sharp slowdown in economic growth this year and sent shudders through markets.
Vodafone boss quits following share price slump
The chief executive of Vodafone will step down later this month following a slump in the company's share price and warnings over job cuts.
My colleague Matthew Field has the latest:
Nick Read, who has spent two decades at Vodafone and four years as chief executive, will stand down on Dec 31.
His abrupt exit comes amid intense talks with Three about a merger of Vodafone and its rival's UK mobile divisions.
Vodafone's share price has fallen 40pc since Mr Read, 58, was appointed in October 2018.
The executive was responsible for a series of major strategic deals at the telecoms giant, completing the acquisition of Liberty Global's Germany business for €18bn and selling off its European towers arm in a €20bn float.
Tentative open for UK markets
A slow start for markets in London despite traders welcoming more easing of strict Covid restrictions in China that have hammered the world's number-two economy.
The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 both opened flat at 7,558.03 and 19,391.47 respectively.
Rail unions refuse to save Christmas from ‘catastrophe’ after rejecting 8pc pay rise
Rail unions have rejected an eight per cent pay offer that would have averted debilitating Christmas train strikes.
Robert Mendick, Oliver Gill and Daniel Martin have the latest:
The walkouts later this month threaten to wreck the holiday travel plans of millions of people.
The rejection of the offer from rail bosses means national strikes are set to go ahead on Dec 13 and 14, and again on Dec 16 and 17.
It comes amid a spate of industrial action during advent, with nurses set to walk out for two days and Royal Mail workers planning strikes in the busiest period for Christmas deliveries.
Ambulance workers and civil servants, including Border Force officials, have also backed strike action but are yet to confirm dates.
UK must 'start taking action' on investment, says CBI
Confederation of British Industry director general Tony Danker said the UK must "start taking action" on investment if it is going to avoid a recession that is "longer and deeper than it needs to be".
He warned most businesses are going into 2023 "not really sure what to do", thinking "there may be some growth left in the economy" but "all the headwinds" are telling them they should "plan for recession".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If we're going to avoid this recession being longer and deeper than it needs to be, then we need to start taking action the Prime Minister himself recommended earlier in the year.
"We have to start to take these seriously... or we're not going to change that pattern of low business investment."
Oil rises as G7 price cap comes into force
Oil prices have begun to rise this morning after the G7 and EU price cap on Russian seaborne oil came into force.
The West wants to limit Moscow's ability to finance its war in Ukraine, though Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production.
The G7 nations and Australia on Friday agreed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil after European Union members overcame resistance from Poland. Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the world had shown weakness by setting the cap at that level while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday it was a gross interference that contradicted the rules of free trade.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, is worth more than $86 a barrel, up 0.8pc this morning, while US-produced West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is 0.9pc to nearly $81.
Vodafone boss's departure comes after share price decline
Nick Read's departure comes after a 35pc decline in Vodafone's share price this year, from a high of 139.5p in February to 91.1p on Friday.
Vodafone's shares last traded at that level in October 2002, after the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s burst and technology stocks tumbled around the world.
During his four years in charge, Mr Read led the mobile group through the pandemic, sold assets to increase its focus on Europe and Africa, and spun out its towers infrastructure into a separate unit.
Despite the changes its shares had remained in the doldrums and the group cut its full-year outlook last month.
Vodafone boss to step down
Vodafone chief executive Nick Read is to step down.
Margherita Della Valle has been appointed in an interim role.
Jean-François van Boxmeer, chairman of Vodafone, said:
On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Nick for his commitment and significant contribution to Vodafone as group chief executive and throughout his career spanning more than two decades with the company.
During his four years as chief executive, he led Vodafone through the pandemic, ensuring that our customers remained connected with their families and businesses. He has focused Vodafone in Europe and Africa as a converged connectivity provider and led the industry in Europe in unlocking value from tower infrastructure.
Margherita has recently been taking a broader operational role within the company and the board fully supports her as interim group chief executive.
If England's World Cup victory has put you in a good mood that you want to savour, you may not want to read the CBI's latest outlook for the British economy.
Britain will be in recession until the end of next year, with the economy weighed down by the triple whammy of high inflation, low growth and weak investment by businesses, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
The country is already in a recession that will last until the end of 2023, according to the business lobbying group, which has downgraded its outlook for next year to a 0.4pc contraction, having previously predicted 1pc growth.
Although the CBI believes inflation peaked at 11.1pc in October, it predicts it will remain significantly above the Bank of England's 2pc target throughout 2023, ending the year at 3.9pc.
That will continue the squeeze on households and, therefore, also on consumer spending, which will in turn weigh on business investment. The CBI thinks this will falling from mid-2023 onwards.
Its outlook improves for 2024, when it believes the economy will grow by 1.6pc, thanks to inflation falling and the squeeze on households alleviating.
Tony Danker, the CBI's director-general, said: "Britain is in stagflation – with rocketing inflation, negative growth, falling productivity and business investment.
"We will see a lost decade of growth if action isn't taken. GDP is a simple multiplier of two factors: people and their productivity. But we don't have people we need, nor the productivity."
5 things to start your day
1) British Gas requests to shut down dozens of companies over unpaid bills - Winding-up petitions mark a more aggressive approach to post-pandemic debt collection
2) Opec cartel warns of immediate action on oil output ahead of Russia sanctions - Warning comes as EU caps Russian oil at $60 a barrel in bid against Moscow
3) EU to overhaul state aid rules in response to Biden’s green energy plans - Subsidies risk sparking an exodus of cash from Europe
4) Roll out congestion charges nationwide, bus operators tell ministers - Proposal includes a £7 daily charge to make buses more attractive
5) Workers at hazardous nuclear waste site test positive for drugs - Random testing has been carried out on 741 workers over the past year
What happened overnight
Asian shares were mostly higher and oil prices rose after the European Union and the G7 agreed on a boycott of most Russian oil and a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports.
Hong Kong's benchmark jumped 3.8pc and the Shanghai Composite added 1.6pc.
Hopes for fewer disruptions to manufacturing and trade have risen as Chinese authorities begin lifting some of the most onerous restrictions imposed to contain outbreaks of the coronavirus, even as they say their zero-Covid strategy is still in place.
China recently saw several days of protests across cities including Shanghai and Beijing as public frustration with the Covid-19 curbs boiled into unrest. Some demanded Chinese President Xi Jinping step down in an extraordinary show of public dissent in a society over which the ruling Communist Party exercises near total control.
In other Asian trading, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 climbed 0.2pc to 27,820.40 and the Kospi in Seoul shed 0.6pc to 2,419.32.
The Hang Seng in Hong Kong was up 715 points at 19,392.45 and the Shanghai Composite added 52 points to 3,207.94. In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.3pc to 7,325.60.