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SEPTA Street Feature. Credit: Alex Small , Alex Small

SEPTA launched a strike early Saturday morning, but an executive order signed by President Obama rendered it short-lived.

The first SEPTA rail strike in 31 years was authorized at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, resulting in frozen train service on 13 regional rail lines.

Obama stepped in at the request of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, ordering a presidential emergency board to help negotiate an agreement between SEPTA and the two unions representing its locomotive engineers and electrical workers.

“The people of Philadelphia and the surrounding region expect and deserve a safe and efficient rail system to get them to work, medical appointments, school and recreation,” Corbett said in a statement. “I call on both parties to work together, find common ground and place the riders at the forefront of mind in their discussions.”

On Saturday, SEPTA workers picketed outside rail yards and stations. Signs were posted advising travelers to find alternate transit options. Subways, trolleys, and buses continued to run on Saturday.

Although no talks had been scheduled for the weekend, Corbett said that if Obama created the board, he expected the workers to return to work immediately.

The presidential emergency board has 30 days to investigate the dispute and deliver a report to the president advising how best to resolve it.

The emergency board process will last 240 days, compelling the striking employees to return to work for that duration.

SEPTA officials said that a return to operation would occur at least 12 hours after Obama’s order to allow for time for equipment inspections and crew assembly. Trains could be running again as early as Sunday morning, in time for Monday’s commute.

“It is imperative that parties continue to work toward an agreement for the benefit of the tens of thousands of people who use SEPTA rail every day,” Corbett said in his statement.

The last SEPTA strike was in 1983 and lasted over three months.

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