BRITAIN’S railways are set to descend into chaos in the four days immediately after Easter, after rail union RMT yesterday called a crippling national rail strike for the first time in 16 years.
Strikes are set to go ahead on each of four days between 6am and 10am and between 6pm and 10pm, starting on 6 April, the day after the Easter bank holiday.
The walkouts by maintenance and signal workers centre around a raft of proposed job cuts and an upheaval of working practices at Network Rail, which has operated the rail infrastructure since 2002.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said the union had received “nothing concrete” from Network Rail after long discussions.
Crow added: “It remains the case that Network Rail, in a drive to slash 21 per cent from its budget, wants to axe 1,500 maintenance posts, lump maintenance functions onto over-worked signallers, rip up agreements and impose changes that will quite clearly undermine safety across our railways and make another Hatfield, Potters Bar or Grayrigg disaster an inevitability.”
Robin Gisby, director of operations at Network Rail, insisted that the railways are safer than ever, calling the tactics “a smokescreen from a union leadership stuck in the steam age”.
Gisby added: “Passengers want more trains – starting earlier and running later – with fewer buses and more trains at weekends. To achieve this Network Rail needs to change the way the railway works.”
The strike comes in the middle of a separate dispute at British Airways, where cabin crew are set to walk out for a second time tomorrow.