Network Rail employees have rejected a four-year pay deal and voted for strike action over the proposals.
The rail operator had proposed to make a one-off lump sum payment of £500 this year. Salaries would then rise each year from 2016 to 2019 in line with the retail prices index level of inflation.
More than 80% of the trade union RMT’s 16,000 Network Rail members voted for the industrial action.
A second rail union, the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association, began balloting its 3,000 Network Rail members in April, the results of which will be announced on 15 May.
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Our employees have received pay rises eight-times higher than other public sector workers over the last four years and have now been offered a deal for the next four years that is unmatched elsewhere.
“Despite the very clear need to modernise railways, we have offered a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for the next two years.
“The unions have also rejected a number of proposals that would boost productivity, removing our ability to offer them more.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, added: “Our members decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail.
“As far as we are concerned, the one-off, non-consolidated, lump-sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running at a time when the organisation is generating profits of £1 billion.
“It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts.”