Southern rail passengers have been delayed throughout much of 2016. Carl Court/ Getty Images

A union leader has branded the Government as "disgraceful" for failing to come to the table over rail worker strikes in spite of intervention from Church of England bishops.

Dr Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester, has written a letter to unions, rail networks and the Department for Transport urging them to show "moral courage" and to "break the circle of blame". The letter was backed by the Bishops of Horsham and Lewes.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said his union were making a "positive response to the bishops" but went on to criticise the behaviour of other agents.

He said: "It is disgraceful that both the Government and Southern continue to throw back every offer to bring all the parties together to resolve this dispute‎."

Commuters have become accustomed to severe delays and cancellations on the Southern Rail network which has been burdened with strikes throughout 2016.

The RMT and ASLEF unions began striking on 6 December and the action is scheduled to last for three days.

Commuters reacted angrily on twitter:

Cash also pointed to an offer to mediate negotiations made in November by Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club director Martin Perry, which he says the RMT were willing to embrace but the Government were not.

This morning the Transport Secretary told the BBC's Today programme that he would be willing to talk only if the strikes were suspended. He said: "Call it off and we will work together for the future of the railways."