Threat of longer strikes as Tube passengers suffer

Strikes by London Underground workers could be escalated in the new year, with two or three-day walkouts considered, union leaders warned today as passengers suffered fresh delays and disruption because of the latest bout of industrial action.

Leaders of the Rail Maritime and Transport union and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association said they would not be recommending any walkouts over the festive season, virtually ruling out any more strikes before January 10, but they raised the threat of longer stoppages after that.

Tube services were disrupted by a 24-hour walkout in protest at job losses, ending at 6.30pm tonight after causing problems for commuters, made worse by the freezing weather.

The unions clashed with Transport for London over the impact of today's strike, the fourth in recent months, with managers strongly denying accusations that they had "misled" passengers.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said: "If you believe what is on the TfL website then you believe in Father Christmas. They are using propaganda to mislead the public. They said Liverpool Street was open when it was closed and they said the Waterloo and City line was running when it wasn't."

LU managing director Mike Brown said: "After consulting with the union leaderships on this for more than six months, trying to establish what specific safety concerns they may have, we offered a further six weeks to discuss our plans. For them to reject this and threaten more strike action next year is staggering, and will be seen by Londoners for what it is - an attempt to hold our city to ransom.

"It will not work. Among union members support for this strike diminishes all the time, and Londoners simply won't let this futile action stop them getting around their city.

"Despite their ludicrous claims, the RMT and TSSA leaderships have offered absolutely no evidence that the information we are providing to help passengers get around London is anything other than accurate. They have not because they cannot - services are operating on virtually all lines today.

"If the union leaders had been out and about on the network, as I have, they'd have seen busy trains and stations and customers going about their normal business. In fact the Tube carried half of its usual number of passengers today despite the pointless strike."

Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA, said: "When it comes to fiction, London Underground could give Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code author) a run for his money.

"They have not told the truth about the impact of this strike from day one."

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to condemn the Tube strike, saying: "It is time for Ed Miliband to stop dithering and speak out.

"Londoners having to brave the cold will certainly see this strike as irresponsible. Does Ed Miliband agree with them or his union bosses?"