German rail freight group DB Cargo has unveiled plans to slash 900 jobs in the UK, blaming what it described as a very tough decision on a "dramatic decline" in its core markets.
The company, whose UK headquarters are based in South Yorkshire, explained it was facing "unprecedented challenges", adding in the year to date the number of coal and steel trains it ran has declined by 78% and 33% respectively.
"Responsible and successful businesses must evolve and reshape as their markets change, and sometimes this means making tough decisions," said group chief executive Hans-Georg Werner.
"Whilst this is a difficult time for all of us at DB Cargo UK, reshaping the company will enable us to build a business for the future and protect the majority of jobs."
Werner stressed the company remained committed to the future of rail freight in the UK, adding it would offer support to staff who face redundancy. "We are fully committed to supporting colleagues who may be at risk of redundancy," he said.
"We firmly believe in the future of rail freight in the UK. Our motorways and roads are becoming more congested and rail offers fast and clean supply chain solutions."
However, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the development was "devastating news", accusing the government of failing to adequately support the industry.
"This is devastating news brought on through a combination of cut-throat practices in the UK rail freight industry and a shocking lack of government support for this key section of our transport infrastructure," said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.
Cash added that the union would meet to plan an adequate response and urged the government to intervene. "It is imperative right now that the Government intervene to save skilled jobs in the rail freight industry which are being butchered before their eyes due to a lack of action to protect steel, coal and the rest of our manufacturing base," he said.