Easter UK National Rail Strike: Staff Cuts Risk Passenger Safety
Travel misery is predicted over Easter as the first national rail strike in 16 years looks set to take place.
The results of a ballot of railway signalmen and maintenance workers is expected to be in favour of strike action when it is announced on Thursday.
The call to strike action has come over a prolonged dispute over staff cuts and changes in working practices that workers feel are compromising the safety of passengers and workers alike.
Leader of the RMT Union, Bob Crow, said: "No matter how they try to spin it, the maintenance cuts and the changes to safety practices involving signalers will leave the senior management at Network Rail with blood on their hands in the event of another Hatfield or Potters Bar."
Network rail bosses claim that they will be able to cope with any walkout with minimum disruption to passengers, but experts say that any such national strike would at least result in speed restrictions and some possible line closures.
Travel by road would also be more difficult as many travelers switch from rail to car and bus in order to avoid problems on the trains.
At the root of Network Rail's plans is the intention to lose 1,500 jobs from its total workforce of 18,000.
With an election looming many expect government intervention publicly, or more likely behind the scenes, to try and avert any national strike.
The results of the maintenance workers ballot tomorrow is expected to give a resounding mandate to strike. Bosses still hope that the signalmen's ballot, which will be disclosed next Friday, may yet avert a stoppage. The results of a third ballot, of supervisors belonging to the TSSA union, will be announced this Friday.
The man in charge of Britain's rail system has told Sky News that Network Rail would be able to cope with a walkout by maintenance staff.
The strike, claim union leaders, is not about pay but more about working practices which workers feel put the safety of passengers at risk.