Rail workers strike over pay

Railway maintenance workers have begun an 18-hour strike in protest against their present pay and conditions package.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) announced yesterday that 12,000 of its members would refuse to work as Network Rail executives had "scuppered" negotiations. The strike will affect Network Rail's repair schedule.

However, the Unite union, which is also involved in the pay dispute, has refused to sanction the strike. In a statement it said that negotiations were "clearly still ongoing".

Network Rail has also been accused of putting the public at risk by planning to leave vans loaded with dangerous materials parked on roads this weekend. The RMT transport union claims at least 10 vans containing a highly explosive combination of compressed gasses and quantities of petrol, oil and railway detonators will be left on public roads.

The vehicles, which are also believed to have been stripped of the key safety notices that tell the emergency services and other road users about the nature of their contents, would normally be parked in secure compounds which will be picketed during a weekend strike, the RMT said.