Rail workers have overwhelmingly voted to strike in a volatile dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 15 train operators including LNER, Transpennine Express and Avanti West Coast backed launching a campaign of industrial action.
Union leaders will now decide when to call strikes, which will bring huge parts of the network to a standstill.
A total of 71% of those balloted took part in the vote with 89% voting in favour of strike action and 11% voting against.
It comes as Aslef prepare to return to the negotiating table with ScotRail over a dispute relating to pay, forcing the newly-nationalised rail operator to implement an emergency timetable.
RMT will now be demanding urgent talks with Network Rail and the 15 train operating companies.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies.
“Our NEC will now meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June, but we sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”
A walkout by Network Rail signallers will have a significant impact on services.
It is possible that trains crossing the border will only run for part of the day, such as from 7am to 7pm and only on main lines.
Services could be reduced to around a fifth of the normal weekday timetable.
The RMT said it balloted more than 40,000 of its members at Network Rail and the following train operating companies: Chiltern Railways Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern Railway, South Western Railway, Island Line, Govia Thameslink (including Gatwick Express), Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains.
The union says Network Rail intends to cut at least 2,500 maintenance jobs as part of a £2bn reduction in spending on the network, while staff at train companies have been subject to pay freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “The RMT has jumped the gun here as everyone loses if there’s a strike. We know our people are concerned about job security and pay.
“We urge the RMT to sit down with us and continue to talk, not walk, so that we can find a compromise and avoid damaging industrial action.
“Any industrial action now would be disastrous for our industry’s recovery and would hugely impact vital supply and freight chains. It would also serve to undermine our collective ability to afford the pay increases we want to make.”
ScotRail slashed more than 700 services across the country on Monday due to deadlock discussions with train drivers’ union Aslef.
Drivers are refusing to work overtime and on rest days because of an unresolved pay dispute after they rejected a 2.2% increase offer, with the option of a revenue share agreement which would have taken the package to 5%.