Half of rail services will run, BR says

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BRITISH RAIL is hoping to run more than half its trains today and tomorrow when signal workers stage their 17th walkout in the three-month-long dispute, writes Christian Wolmar.

The announcement came as RMT, the rail union, warned of a 'serious erosion' of safety and called for the Health and Safety Executive to take court action to maintain standards. During last week's dispute there was a derailment in Bickley, Kent, and in Derbyshire a train went through level crossing barriers.

Railtrack, the signal workers' employer, has repeatedly stressed that safety has not been compromised. In a bulletin to its staff, Railtrack also restated its warning to signal workers that they would lose pounds 50m worth of enhanced pension fund benefits unless they settled the strike within two weeks.

BR says it will run 7,500 out of 15,000 trains today.

The threat of a London Underground pay strike remains after last night's RMT decision to continue with a ballot of its 8,000 Tube workers this week. The train drivers' union Aslef has halted a ballot of its 2,000 members after accepting London Underground's improved pay offer of 2.5 per cent.