Managerial and administrative staff will bear the brunt of the cutbacks at British Rail Infrastructure Services (BRIS), which carries out track renewal and maintenance. BRIS, which has a turnover of more than pounds 1bn, is being split into 20 companies to be sold to the private sector by the end of next year.
BR said that it hoped the redundancies would be voluntary. A spokesman said: 'It is part of the reorganisation process. Infrastructure services will come under different groups so that they can be privatised.'
The announcement comes as criticism of BR's safety procedures increased.
Yesterday the line between Oxted and Uckfield was reopened for the first time since five people died in Saturday's train crash near Cowden station in Kent.
Lew Adams, the general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, said at the launch of a trade union transport safety campaign: 'The accident would not have happened if the trains had been fitted with cab radios.'
He added that either 'automatic train protection' (ATP), a method of stopping trains automatically when they pass red signals, or the retention of double-line track working would also have prevented the crash.
He said single-tracking was 'less safe . . . there have now been four serious crashes on single-line sections where the second track has been taken away for cost-saving reasons.'
ATP was recommended by the Hidden report into the 1988 Clapham disaster, but BR says it cannot afford the pounds 600m needed to introduce it.
BR was still unable to say if the recommendation of the Hidden report to have radios fitted onto all trains would be implemented by the end of 1995.
Implementation of safety recommendations has been delegated to the 25 BR areas the network was split into for franchising and is no longer the responsibility of one person or department.
The Independent has learnt that BR has stopped ordering radio equipment. A BR source said: 'Either the train companies have no money for investment, or if they do have money, they do not know what equipment to buy because of the uncertainty over privatisation.'