World Cup match hit by rail strike

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The Independent Online

Signal workers' unions have called two 24-hour strikes which will virtually close the rail network and prevent commuters getting home to see an England World Cup game.

The first stoppage is due to begin at 1pm next Tuesday, seven hours before England kick off against Sweden in their final group match. The second walk-out is scheduled to start at 9pm on Sunday 25 June.

Managers at Network Rail, the signallers' employer, conceded that the industrial action in protest at the three-year pay offer would have an "enormous'' impact on the system.

The RMT union blamed Network Rail's refusal to budge' from an offer which amounted to a two-year pay freeze.

The union announced a vote of more than two to one in favour of walkouts. In a 65 per cent turnout 2,104 voted in favour of strikes while 920 were against.

Management has offered a 3.2 per cent rise plus a one-off bonus of £250 this year, together with increases matching the inflation rate in 2007 and 2008.