Rail bosses are drawing up emergency plans to stop what is expected to be the biggest rail strike in modern history leaving supermarket shelves empty and petrol pumps dry.
Union barons are plotting to unleash chaos in an effort to block plans for thousands of maintenance jobs to be cut and secure double-digit percentage pay rises for their staff.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union is midway through a ballot for strike action of workers at train operators and Network Rail, with voting due to close on Tuesday.
Manuel Cortes, head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), has promised the biggest disruption since the General Strike in 1926 as his union also consults members.
The looming crisis has forced rail executives to draft a series of measures aimed at minimising the disruption and economic damage a strike could wreak. Industrial action may begin as early as June 7.
Plans include freight trains being given priority over passenger services to head off potential food and fuel shortages, including by introducing times when tracks are reserved for goods, The Times reported.
Other measures could include managers being trained to dispatch trains and Network Rail working with operators on a skeleton, 12-hour timetable to keep key services running, according to reports.
It remains unclear whether any strike would be carried out as one big action, or a series of rolling strikes.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is expected to meet the Prime Minister next week to discuss the problem.
Ministers fear a national strike at Network Rail, particularly one involving signallers, would cause the most disruption and services would have to be “drastically” smaller than normal, the Financial Times reported.