UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper has given rail companies permission to make a new offer to unions this week in a bid to ending strikes.

A “revised mandate” had been given to rail companies to go into negotiations in the coming days and it’s important to give the two sides space “to try and reach a conclusion,” Harper told Sky News in an interview.

The bosses of three rail unions told a House of Commons panel Wednesday they aren’t close to a deal with employers, despite months of strikes that have hampered commuters and disrupted travel over the Christmas and new year period.

Harper had said earlier an end to the rail strikes could be in sight, telling ITV’s “Peston” show he was “hopeful that now that there is a renewed offer on the table that that can happen.”