Eurostar peace hopes collapse

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Hopes of averting a strike by French train drivers on London-Paris Eurostar trains through the Channel tunnel were dashed last night, while London Underground appeared to be heading off the threat of industrial action.

European Passenger Services, the UK arm of Eurostar, said it had been told by the SNCF French state railway that talks in Paris aimed at ending the strike had failed.

An EPS spokesman saidSNCF "regretted the disruption and would do whatever it could to limit the consequences".

The stoppage means Eurostar is likely to run only six of its normal nine London-Paris trains today from Waterloo station. There are likely to be only four of the normal 10 Paris trains operating on Friday.

EPS said it was confident of running a full service between Waterloo and Brussels both today and Friday. Saturday schedules would be announced later.

The Force Ouvriere union wants its Eurostar drivers to receive the same bonus paid to drivers of TGV high-speed trains in France - worth about pounds 5.20 a day.

Meanwhile, London Underground managers said they were "very encouraged" last night after talks aimed at heading off the threat of strikes.

The company praised thetrain drivers' union, Aslef, which has agreed to join a working group today to discuss working practices. But leaders of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have not yet decided whether to join the talks.

The two Tube unions are balloting members on industrial action in protest at a "final" 3 per cent pay offer and expect a considerable majority to be in favour when the results are declared next week.

Rail passengers will also hear today whether they face more summer strike disruption with the announcement of the result of a ballot of Aslef members on whether to resume industrial action over pay. Two one-day strikes in protest at British Rail's 3 per cent pay offer crippled the services last month.