The "fragile" West Midlands economy faces another serious blow if railway signal workers go ahead with two 24-hour strikes, business leaders have warned.
Rail services across the country face severe disruption next week as members of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) plan to walk out over a pay dispute.
The first strike will begin at 1pm on Tuesday June 20, coinciding with England's final World Cup group match against Sweden and hitting thousands of commuters trying to get home to watch the game. A second walkout will start at 9pm on Sunday June 25 and hit Monday morning's commuter services.
The business lobby said the dispute would cost firms millions of pounds as workers were tempted to stay at home and hit confidence in public transport.
John James, chairman of the Institute of Directors West Midlands, said: "Not only will this disrupt the working day, it is bound to have a major effect on deliveries and services which will undoubtedly cost the West Midlands economy.
"This is coming at a time when the UK economy, particularly in the Midlands, is in the grip of economic uncertainty. Anything that could damage our already fragile economy could be very dangerous."
John Lamb, spokesman for the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: "We thought the bad old days of industrial action of this sort were over, but this will do nothing for public confidence in public transport.
"I think people will be tempted to take both days off which could have an enormous impact on the local economy."
The RMT said its members had voted by 2,104 to 970 for industrial action after rejecting a three-year pay offer, which the union claimed would deliver an effective two-year pay freeze and a further delay to introducing a 35-hour week.
The offer is for a 3.2 per cent increase plus a nonconsolidated lump sum of #250 this year and the rate of inflation for the next two years, with further lump sums of #300 and #350.
Network Rail, which employs signal workers and operational staff, is still in talks with the RMT in a bid to avert the stoppages and may have to resort to managers manning signal controls to keep some services running.
Last night train operators were still drawing up contingency plans in order to provide some sort of service for commuters.
Ged Burgess, spokesman for Central Trains, said: "We do have a strategy for dealing with these sort of things and we're still in discussions with Network Rail over what services can be provided on those days. Where possible we hope to still run key routes."
Jim Rowe, of Virgin Trains - which carries 50,000 people in and out of Birmingham a day - added: "As a long distance operator it would be incredibly difficult to use a replacement bus service on those routes, so I expect a lot of our passengers will revert to their car."
Network Rail chief executive John Armitt said he was "disappointed" by the ballot result but would continue to try and reach a negotiated settlement.