Chaos for London commuters as Tube strike goes ahead

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The Independent Online

London's transport system will be plunged into chaos later today after talks aimed at averting a 24-hour tube strike broke down after half an hour.

London's transport system will be plunged into chaos later today after talks aimed at averting a 24-hour tube strike broke down after half an hour.

More than 7,500 London Underground workers are to walk out at 6.30pm in two disputes over pay and conditions which will bring most of the system to a halt. Travel of more than three million passengers will be disrupted by the first system-wide stoppage for two years.

Management conceded that Tube services will be "severely'' disrupted and that the number of services still running would be very "limited''.

Bobby Law, London regional organiser of the RMT union accused management of being "dishonourable and untrustworthy''. He said London Underground appeared to have no intention of reaching an agreement. He urged the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to take control of the dispute.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said "strings'' attached to a two-year pay deal worth 6.5 per cent and involving a 35-hour week by 2006 were "totally unacceptable''.

Referring to Mr Livingstone's advice to RMT members to cross picket lines, Mr Crow said: "What is the mayor doing? He only seems to want to break the strike.''

Speaking at his union's annual conference in Portsmouth, Mr Crow said management wanted to run services till 2am every day,but there was no provision to get workers home at the end of their shift.

A separate dispute involving the infrastructure company Metronet could be solved if it offers the union a similar deal to that signed with Tubelines, which also maintains the London Underground network.

Mike Brown, chief operating officer at London Underground, said management had increased the pay on offer in the two-year deal from 3.25 per cent to 3.5 per cent, with a shorter working week for those still working over 35-hours and protection of pensions.

''Given such an offer the RMT strike is unjustified and will make travelling into the capital incredibly difficult for millions of commuters.

Transport for London rejected a plea by the AA to provide extra parking in the capital and to waive the £5 congestion charge in the Capital's centre.

London Underground however will be laying on free river services in the morning and evening rush hours.

A simultaneous strike by RMT members on the national rail system was called off after Network Rail offered a package which involved the retention of a final salary pension scheme for new recruits.

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