Renewal programmes facing cuts included the network from London across Kent, Sussex and Surrey

Several track renewal schemes across the UK’s rail network will have to be cancelled or scaled down due to cost overruns, a move which unions have claimed could end up “endangering lives”.

A letter written by Ben Brooks, a senior official at Network Rail, seen by the Independent newspaper, warned that with “significant overspends” in some areas of the control period five spending period, which runs 2014-2019, and the cost of running some lines proving to be more expensive than originally thought, a number of renewal programmes would have to be cut back or cancelled altogether.

Schemes being shelved, the letter said, included all remaining renewal schemes on the London North Western route, running from the Euston Station through Cumbria to Scotland, plus all work on the Wessex route, and all work planned for Wales in 2019.

Renewal programmes facing cuts included the network from London across Kent, Sussex and Surrey, as well as routes out of Paddington towards Bristol and the south west.

Unions claimed the cuts could eventually lead to another rail disaster, a charge Network Rail refuted in a statement, despite conceding it would have to make reductions to its spending programme.

“Network Rail has no plans to cut any safety-critical jobs or any safety critical work. Any such suggestion is ridiculous scaremongering,” it said.

However it acknowledged the network had “faced a number of cost pressures and changing priorities” which “sometimes means making hard choices”.

Network Rail said it was making savings in non-essential areas “to ensure we’re delivering value to the taxpayer, while at the same time continuing to deliver a safe, reliable and expanding railway.

“The safe running of the rail network will never be compromised and the adjustment in the activity of our high output track renewals work represents just 0.3% of our spend in the running of the railway network.

“Britain has the safest railway in Europe, thanks to the efforts of many thousands of hard working men and women, and they are ill-served by such baseless scaremongering by trade unions.”