SCOTLAND's rail services are about to plunged into fresh chaos as Network Rail workers voted overwhelmingly to strike in a bitter dispute over jobs and pay and conditions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 15 train operators backed launching a campaign of industrial action.

The union’s leaders will now decide when to call strikes, which will bring huge parts of the network to a standstill.

The dispute is partly over plans to cut hundreds of critical maintenance jobs.

The decision comes as ScotRail cut a third of its services on Monday as a result of a separate pay dispute involving the drivers union Aslef - which has led to a work to rule.

The decision has come after unions warned last month there remains 200 existing vacancies in maintenance delivery in Scotland which they say is affecting passenger safety in the wake of the Stonehaven rail crash of 2020 which claimed the lives of three people.

Network Rail, which owns the nation's rail tracks, stations and signals and track and key players in cross-border services LNER, Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express and Cross Country Trains are among the major train operators who are hit with a yes vote in a strike ballot involving 40,000 workers across the UK.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said a vote in favour would be the biggest rail strike in modern history.

READ MORE: Nationalised ScotRail cut back on over 60 more services on day it slashed timetable over driver shortages

A total of 71% of those balloted took part in the vote with 89% voting in favour of strike action and 11% voting against.

The union said it was the biggest endorsement for industrial action by railway workers since privatisation.

The union will now be demanding urgent talks with Network Rail and the 15 train operating companies.

HeraldScotland:

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies.

“Our NEC [National Executive Committee] will now meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June, but we sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”

A walkout by Network Rail signallers will have a significant impact on services.

It is possible that trains will only run for part of the day, such as from 7am to 7pm and only on main lines.

Services could be reduced to around a fifth of the normal weekday timetable.

The union says Network Rail was planning to cut at least 2,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending, including hundreds north of the border. Meanwhile workers have been subject to pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.

The RMT union in Scotland has said  that a strike would not just hit cross-border services but the running of operations across Scotland, including ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper services.

That is because among those being balloted are safety-critical workers including signallers employed by Network Rail who are crucial to keep trains running.

HeraldScotland:

Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “The RMT has jumped the gun here as everyone loses if there’s a strike. We know our people are concerned about job security and pay. As a public body we have been working on offering a pay increase that taxpayers can afford, and we continue to discuss this with our trades unions.

“We urge the RMT to sit down with us and continue to talk, not walk, so that we can find a compromise and avoid damaging industrial action.

“We are at a key point in the railway’s recovery from the pandemic. The taxpayer has provided the industry with £16 billion worth of additional life support over the last two years and that cannot continue.

“Travel habits have changed forever and the railway has to change as well to adapt to this new reality. We believe that by modernising – creating safer jobs for our people and operating the railway more efficiently – we can build a sustainable future with a railway that delivers for passengers and taxpayers.

“Any industrial action now would be disastrous for our industry’s recovery and would hugely impact vital supply and freight chains. It would also serve to undermine our collective ability to afford the pay increases we want to make.”

If strikes go ahead, they would cost the rail industry around £30 million each day, according to sources.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the RMT is calling for industrial action before even entering discussions.

“Taxpayers across the country contributed £16 billion to keep our railways running throughout the pandemic while ensuring not a single worker lost their job.

“The railway is still on life support, with passenger numbers 25% down, and anything that drives away even more of them risks killing services and jobs. Train travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes stop our customers choosing rail, and they might never return.

“We urge the RMT to reconsider and accept the invitation of industry talks, so we can find a solution that delivers for workers, passengers and taxpayers alike.”

RMT members at the following companies voted for strike action and action short of a strike: Network Rail, Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern, South Western Railway, Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains.

The Rail Delivery Group has said any strike would put at risk the post-Covid recovery.