Network Rail workers threw down the first big industrial relations challenge to the Government when they voted overwhelmingly in favour of going on strike over pay.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union backed walkouts by 4-1 on a turnout of 60 per cent, beating planned Government thresholds on strike ballots.
Workers voted by a bigger margin - 92 per cent - for other forms of industrial action, raising the threat of chaos on the railways.
The result was announced within hours of new Business Secretary Sajid Javid saying that the Government will press ahead with introducing new laws to stop public sector strikes going ahead unless they have the support of 40 per cent of workers eligible to vote.
The RMT has around 16,000 members at NR, working across the company’s operations and maintenance. Talks were held at the conciliation service Acas but they failed to break the deadlock.