Union leaders warn of a national dispute over fears that thousands of maintenance jobs could be canceled due to massive spending cuts.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is urgently seeking talks with the government about the future of Network Rail and about safety and maintenance standards for the railways.
RMT officials said they had been told that “drastic” cuts were planned. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.
The union said it would put itself on a “dispute” to combat job losses and warned that NR is also planning to freeze wages and change labor practices.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “On orders from the government, Network Rail is using the decline in passenger numbers and service levels after Covid-19 to accelerate the most radical restructuring of the railway infrastructure since privatization.
“Instead of returning to Covid-19 for the railroad recovery that our economy and climate desperately need, this is a return to Railtrack’s disastrous days.
“Railroad workers, who were key workers throughout the pandemic, have already gotten a kick in the teeth trying to enforce the government’s wage freeze.
“Now they are threatened with the loss of thousands of jobs, accompanied by a drastic dilution of safety tasks, which will have catastrophic consequences for safety on the railways.
“I will seek an urgent meeting with the Minister of Transport, but in the meantime RMT has no alternative to national dispute settlement to protect the livelihood of our members and the lives of rail travelers and workers.”
RMT Deputy Secretary-General Mick Lynch said he had been briefed on the planned cuts in meetings with NR officials.
“We have to answer. We are now in a dispute and will get our members to take action against the downsizing and any measure to reduce maintenance. “
Andrew Haines, CEO of Network Rail, said, “Outdated practices and the impact of Covid on passenger numbers show the railroad is not serving passengers, taxpayers or employees as well as it should.
“So we want to work constructively with the unions to create an industry that is fit for the 21st century and truly safe, efficient and effective for everyone.
“I hope the unions will see and recognize the need to modernize and work with us to improve the UK rail network.”
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association said it is involved with other rail unions in discussions in the Rail Industry Recovery Group (RIRG) on the shape of the post-pandemic of the rail industry.
Talks began earlier this year and are at a detailed and ongoing stage, the union said, adding that Network Rail’s chairman on Friday emailed staff with the prospect of changes that are yet to be made are to be agreed upon.
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The RIRG is an initiative supported by the government, the Department of Transportation and employers including Network Rail.
“In all fairness, these discussions need to be closed before we can begin discussing company-specific proposals as we need industry-wide assurances on a number of issues, including job security for our members. So today’s announcement is really badly.
“Unfortunately, Network Rail seems to have jumped the gun.
“Our answer is clear – we are not looking for a fight, but if you do not step back and make proposals that will result in the loss of jobs before we have agreed on measures to protect our members, you will receive an Almighty. “