More than 150 jobs were axed today after a rail repairs and refurbishment company went into administration, with hundreds more workers facing redundancy, unions said.
The Rail Maritime and Transport union and Unite said 40% of the workforce at Railcare will lose their jobs immediately, describing the news as "devastating".
The cuts will affect employees at the company's sites in Wolverton near Milton Keynes and Springburn, Glasgow, said the unions.
The company called in administrators yesterday, citing difficult trading conditions and reduced demand.
Unions said the problems were caused by a cash flow crisis, adding that Railcare had a full order book of work from October but had been hit by delays to fleet refurbishment programmes resulting from the Governments rail franchising timetable being aborted after the West Coast "fiasco".
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "We are seeking an urgent meeting with Business Secretary Vince Cable and the administrators to stop hundreds of workers who could be doing urgent rail fleet refurbishment work, while paying their taxes, from being thrown on the dole.
"This is a ridiculous situation that requires urgent joined up thinking from government before lives are wrecked and money wasted on state redundancy payments that could be used to cash flow this perfectly viable business.
"Anyone who has travelled on the railways lately will know there's plenty of work needed on our train fleet to keep these staff in work rather than dumping on the dole these skilled engineers who are the victims of this rapid corporate collapse at Railcare."
Unite national officer Julia Long said: "It is a disgrace that the Department of Business turned down the company's initial request for financial help. These are highly skilled jobs which are at stake - just the kind that the UK needs to secure its future industrial base.
"This is in stark contrast to the tens of millions of pounds that the Government showers, like confetti, on the private rail companies in the form of compensation payments and generous franchise arrangements.
"A total of 500 jobs could be lost - and we can't afford to lose such a dedicated workforce."