NETWORK RAIL was this week retraining around 150 managers with past signalling experience in an attempt to undermine network-wide strike action called by rail union RMT.
The rail operator hopes that retrained managers will enable it to run around 10% of services when RMT holds its strike over pay and pensions.
RMT plans to call a series of strikes over the summer after securing a 58% members vote backing industrial action.
The union hopes to maximise disruption by timing the rail strikes to coincide with similar action on London Underground. Tube staff are voting this week.
Network Rail remains in discussion with RMT but is standing its ground on pay and conditions.
It has already upped its pay offer following negotiation and argues that any further increase would divert vital funds away from improving infrastructure.
Should the strike go ahead the impact on the rail network will be severe.
Only 1,800 of its 9,500 signalling staff voted to strike. But Network Rail expects many signallers to refuse to cross picket lines.
Maintenance work will also be affected, with 1,148 out of 5,964 maintenance workers voting in favour of strike action.
Essential maintenance work will be handled by spreading non-striking staff around the network.