London Tube strike: Union and TfL clash as action looks set to enter second day


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The Independent Online

Fresh from struggling home on Wednesday evening London’s commuters prepared to face another day of dreadful Tube crushes, over-crowded buses and wet walks to work as the capital’s Tube looked certain to enter a second day.

Tthe Prime Minister said he “unreservedly condemned” the first in a series of strikes, while union bosses and Transport for London (TfL) clashed and millions of Londoners were caught up in commuting chaos throughout the day.

The two-day strike was called by The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) unions to protest against job losses and plans to close manned ticket offices as part of the modernisation of the 151-year-old network.

Police and hundreds of volunteers were out in force at major stations today to keep order as long lines of frustrated travellers began building up at bus stops at dawn and again for the evening rush hour.

However by the evening TfL said London Underground (LU) operated over a third of its normal service on nine out of 11 lines with around 70 per cent of stations open.

LU managing director Mike Brown said: “Many thousands of LU and TfL staff are working hard to keep customers informed and ensure we keep London moving and open for business today.”

That did not stop frayed tempers and reports of jostling as union leaders accused TfL of spreading “misleading and bogus information” about the extent of the strike.

Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, said: “It does Londoners no favours to be told by London Underground that stations will be open, only to turn up and find the gates slammed shut.

”Instead of pumping up ridiculous publicity stunts like the 'volunteer ambassador' nonsense, LU should be around the table with us settling this dispute which is simply about austerity cuts to jobs, safety and services.“

The RMT also released an image showing what it described as “lethal overcrowding” at the bottom of a set of escalators at Waterloo station.

The union added that TfL was “ignoring every regulation in the book and exposing passengers to serious crushing and trampling risk”

As commuters crossed the picket lines again yesterday evening the two sides continued to argue over ticket office closures. London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “The blame for this strike lies squarely with union leaders who have resorted to myths and stunts in a pathetic attempt to justify a strike that is utterly pointless.”

Mr Johnson also continued to attack the basis for the strike, insisting LU was planning to increase staffing levels through modernising the Tube and getting rid of "antiquated" ticket offices.

"A deal is there to be done. I am more than happy to talk to Bob Crow if he calls off the pointless and unnecessary strike," he said.

Services return to normal on Friday but another 48-hour strike is planned from 9pm next Tuesday.

Other ways to get around

By boat Additional river services were in place along the River Thames from Surrey Quays, Canary Wharf and London Bridge.

By bike Transport for London reported a 50 per cent increase in daily journeys on the Barclays Bike Hire scheme and thousands of fair-weather cyclists braved the rain to get to work on time.

By bus and coach There are 175 additional buses on key routes as well as coach services stopping at Baker Street, Marble Arch and Victoria.

By scooter Finance worker Annette Connery Sutton beat the strike by riding a scooter from Victoria to Marylebone. She said: “It’s deadly uncool for someone my age but who cares? This time around I’m all for it [the strike], I don’t like the fact they want to close the ticket offices.”