Rail dispute 'could halve network': Anxiety mounts over consequences of continuing disruption. Barrie Clement reports

NEARLY HALF the rail network could be closed permanently if the signal workers' dispute continues over the next three or four months, according to a senior industry source.

An official close to top management at Railtrack and British Rail predicted an 'enormous' number of redundancies, including as many as 3,000 signal workers out of the present complement of 4,600. He said that the routes now being operated on strike days approximated to the lines that would remain viable.

'It is difficult to overstate the concern being expressed at senior levels in the industry,' the highly placed source said. Sir Bob Reid, chairman of BR, has become increasingly anxious about the state of the industry since warning in July that thousands of jobs were at risk because of the dispute.

It is understood that small loss- making branch lines which require considerable numbers of staff to operate, would close first.

Such cutbacks would mean the loss of scores of rural lines in England and much of Scotland and Wales would be left without rail services.

The senior manager told the Independent that the Government might have to 'dust off' the Serpell report, published in 1983, which presented a range of options, including cutting the 11,000 miles of network to 1,600 miles.

Apart from its recommendation that BR workshops should be sold off, the report was effectively shelved. There are now approximately 10,000 miles of track. The last big cutback came in the early 1960s under the Beeching plans.

'It is possible that we would simply be left with the main routes connecting the major cities and that branch lines will be closed,' he said.

The BR chairman warned in July that the dispute was 'hugely destructive' and that the strike could be 'devastating' to the business. He said the business could not expect to keep its passengers and freight customers if the industrial action continued.

As senior managers expressed their anxiety over the future of the industry, it emerged yesterday that British Rail had stopped paying compensation to passengers in areas where trains are running on strike days. Management had been granting cash refunds or extending season tickets to commuters and other travellers caught up in the strikes.

In the 24-hour stoppage tomorrow, British Rail is expected for the first time to run more than half the normal number of trains.

A 'handful' of British Rail staff are being drafted in to help push the number of services over the psychologically important 50 per cent mark.

A member of the Health and Safety Commission yesterday called for an investigation into the training given to the British Rail employees.

Paul Gallagher, who is also general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrcial Union, said he will ask the executive arm of the commission to look into the issue following a string of complaints from railway workers, two of which had given rise for concern among inspectors.

Mr Gallagher said: 'I want to know how, after less than two weeks' training or retraining, it is possible for Railtrack to say that a person is competent to work in a signal box when it takes nine months to train a signal worker.'

A spokesman for Railtrack said there was no question of a deterioration in the levels of safety on strike days. Only fully qualified BR personnel, all of whom were volunteers, would be used.

Railtrack once more hopes to provide a signalling service for more than half of the network by concentrating on the main routes where hi-tech signal boxes cover long stretches of track.

Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Peter Moores was criticised for failing to handle top players when he last led the England team
sportFive years after being sacked from the job, Peter Moores to be named a cricket coach
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit