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Rail workers have called off strikes they had planned for next week in north Wales and parts of the north of England after reaching agreement with two regional railway companies, the RMT union said yesterday. Settlements have been negotiated with North West Regional Railways and Regional Railways North East, a union spokesman said.

The companies' offers of reductions in the working week plus guaranteed half-hour meal breaks for each shift were approved by the union's executive. The companies have also committed themselves to setting up working parties to discuss further issues surrounding pay and productivity.

While the RMT has called off what would have been the fourth 24-hour stoppage since August, it is still in dispute with 13 of the 24 regional railway companies over a number of similar issues involving pay and productivity.