Fears of a rail strike that the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) union is formulating have led to contigency plans being put in place to gaurd against food shortages.

The RMT is balloting 40,000 members on the move, which network sources have reportedly said would create “serious challenges” in keeping goods moving and supermarket shelves stocked.

As a result contingency plans are being drawn up to try and keep passenger and freight trains running in the event of such industrial action.

This vote, which is due to close on Tuesday (May 24), includes staff on Network Rail and 15 train operating companies, with the RMT saying the action is being taken over pay, compulsory redundancies and safety concerns.

The Argus: The RMT is balloting members from 15 train operating companies (PA)The RMT is balloting members from 15 train operating companies (PA)

The union has also announced it intends to ballot members in Scotland for strike action, following what it describes as a “derisory” 2.2% pay offer by ScotRail and proposed timetable changes which it branded a “kick in the teeth” to workers.

Another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), has warned of a “summer of discontent” with similar action on the way unless pay disputes are resolved.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes has said many members have not seen a wage increase for two years.

He added: “If the Department for Transport, Train Operating Companies and Network Rail don’t come forward very soon with proposed pay increases, which at least match inflation, a summer of discontent is on the way across our railways."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will meet with the Prime Minister and Chancellor next week to discuss the threat amid fears in Whitehall that the action could be worse than the junior doctor walkout in 2015, The Times has reported.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said back in April: “Railway workers have had to contend with pay freezes, the prospect of losing their jobs and repeated attacks on their terms and conditions.

“Removing 2,500 safety-critical jobs from Network Rail will spell disaster for the public, make accidents more likely and will increase the possibility of trains flying off the tracks.

Train operating companies have praised our members for being key workers during the pandemic but have refused to keep staff pay in line with inflation and soaring living costs.

“As a result, thousands of railway workers have seen their living standards plummet and have run out of patience.

“The way for trade unions to effectively take on the cost-of-living crisis is to stand up for their members at work and take industrial action when employers are not moved by the force of reasoned argument.

“A national rail strike will bring the country to a standstill, but our members’ livelihoods and passenger safety are our priorities.”

He added: “We believe in modernising the railways but we do not believe in sacrificing thousands of jobs, constant pay freezes or making the railways unsafe."