Britain's railways are set for huge disruptions on two days later this month after the Rail and Maritime Transport (RMT) union announced it would hold strike action.
Over 5,000 signalmen and operators working for Network Rail will strike for two 24-hour periods on June 20th and June 25th after members "voted overwhelmingly" to take industrial action.
The dispute centres on the rejection of a three-year pay package deal offered by Network Rail by signal workers, which the RMT says would delay the introduction of a 35-hour-week and freeze real-term pay for two years.
"We warned the company that our members would not accept this penny-pinching offer from executives who have pocketed a million in bonuses between them," Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said.
"Our negotiation team remains available for talks, but our members have made it clear that they are fed up with the double standards and are determined to win justice on pay."
Although a convincing 68.4 per cent voted in favour of the strike, leading Mr Crow to describe the vote as a "massive" mandate for action, a significant proportion – 31.6 per cent – voted against the measure.
Responding to the ballot, Network Rail chief executive John Armitt said he was "disappointed" with the result and believed that the pay settlement he had presented, which included "above-inflation increases" and "a doubling of travel subsidies", was a "generous and fair deal".
"We will now seek talks with the trades unions to try and find a way to a negotiated settlement and avert a strike that would cause great disruption for passengers and damage public confidence in the railway," he said.
"We have, for some time, been making plans to deal with a strike, and in the event we will do all we can to run as many services as possible and minimise the disruption caused to our customers."
Mr Armitt pointed out that the strikes would severely disrupt transport links for fans travelling to England's World Cup games against Sweden and to their likely second round match.