Electricians who work on SEPTA Regional Rail cars and equipment moved a step closer to being able to strike, following their release from federal mediation on Thursday.

The National Mediation Board ended its long-running efforts to broker an agreement between SEPTA and IBEW Local 744 and suggested the two sides submit their long-running dispute to binding arbitration.

The 200 electricians would accept arbitration, said Arthur Davidson, IBEW general chairman, but SEPTA will not, spokesman Andrew Busch said.

Federal law now requires a 30-day "cooling off" period and a 240-day dispute-resolution period before a strike or lockout would be permitted. That period would expire in January, assuming that a presidential board is created promptly to investigate the long-running contract dispute.

Electricians have been without a new contract since 2009.

- Paul Nussbaum