Rail strikes called off

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The Independent Online

Strikes planned by thousands of rail workers, which would have caused travel chaos across the country over the next week, were called off today as last-ditch talks resolved a pay row.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it had reached a deal with Network Rail, averting a 24-hour walkout from noon on Friday and a 48-hour stoppage next week.

The announcement followed an agreement between Network Rail and the union's executive about the earlier implementation of a 35-hour working week for signallers.

Welcoming the news, Network Rail chief executive John Armitt said: "This is good news for passengers and freight customers, who are no longer facing the disruption of a strike.

"This is also good news for our people, who could soon have their new pay deal implemented.

"We hope RMT members will vote to accept this deal, which includes a generous rise in pay and benefits, and which would see the 35-hour working starting next month."

The RMT will recommend the pay deal, with the 35-hour working week now starting in August, to its members in a referendum which will close on July 28.

Under the proposed deal, workers will receive a pay rise of 3.2 per cent backdated to April, an increase of the rate of inflation plus 0.75 per cent from April 2007, a 35-hour week from next month, an increase in travel subsidies and improved London allowances.