Tube strike causes travel chaos

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The Independent Online

London Underground passengers suffered travel chaos last night when workers went ahead with a 72-hour strike causing the cancellation of most Tube services.

Around 2,300 members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union walked out at 6pm in a bitter row linked to the collapse of maintenance giant, Metronet.

Last-minute appeals by mayor Ken Livingstone failed to halt the strike, which led to the cancellation of services on two thirds of the system.

London Underground said there would be no tubes on the Central, Bakerloo, Victoria, Waterloo & City, District, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and East London lines for the next three days unless the strike is called off.

Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly line services, which are maintained by Tube Lines, should continue to operate, although they are expected to be very busy.

LU urged passengers to walk if possible, find other ways of getting to and from work and to respect the efforts of transport staff.

Mr Livingstone said tonight that the strike was one of the most "purposeless" ever called and said all issues raised by unions over jobs, transfers and pensions had been settled.

Analysts estimated that the strike would cost London's economy up to £50 million a day while business and opposition groups warned that the impact on tourism and industry would be huge.

Picket lines were mounted outside Tube depots at 6pm and massive queues built up at bus stops as workers tried to get home.

Two other Tube unions, Unite and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, called off their strikes just hours before 6pm after accepting assurances on jobs and transfers.

The TSSA will hold further talks on pensions later this week and said it could join a second walkout next week if it did not reach a deal.

The RMT warned of another 72-hour strike next Monday unless the row is resolved.

General secretary Bob Crow said: "We have been seeking simple, unqualified guarantees from Metronet and its administrator that there will be no job losses, forced transfers or pension cuts and we have not had them.

"The efforts the mayor and Transport for London have put in to try to broker a deal have been welcome, but the problem for all of us remains that Metronet and its administrator are the employer and the qualified assurances they have given cover only the period of administration.

"It is astonishing that the administrator can decide all sorts of things, including who will take over the PPP contracts, but is unable to give an unequivocal guarantee jobs of the people who will actually deliver the Tube's upgrades will be safe."

TfL said all three Tube unions had received all the assurances they were seeking.

A spokesman said: "The administrator and Metronet have made it clear there will be no job cuts, no transfers and that pensions will be fully protected while the company is in administration."

Mr Livingstone noted that two of the three unions had accepted the assurances they had received. He acknowledged that the strike will "severely disrupt" the lives of millions of Londoners as well as cost RMT members hundreds of pounds in lost earnings.

TfL tonight advised passengers to check before travelling home tonight or back to work in the morning and was posting information bulletins at Tube stations across the capital.