Tube strike chaos for three million commuters

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The Independent Online

The three million people who use the Tube system every day have been advised to stay at home during today's 24-hour strike, which will bring the London Underground network to a near standstill.

The three million people who use the Tube system every day have been advised to stay at home during today's 24-hour strike, which will bring the London Underground network to a near standstill.

While members of the RMT rail union will begin returning to work at 6.30pm tonight, the timetable will not return to normal until tomorrow. All other rail services, including the Docklands Light Railway, will be working normally, but the stoppage is expected to cripple the capital's transport system.

Transport for London urged people to stay at home. It rejected a plea from the AA to make extra car parking spaces available and to suspend the congestion charge, but London Underground has laid on free river services.

The stoppage, over pay and conditions, involves nearly 6,000 employees at the state-owned London Underground, which operates the trains, and more than 1,400 workers at Metronet, a private consortium responsible for maintaining all routes except the Piccadilly, Jubilee and Northern lines.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the union, who will join the picket line at Morden station today, said he could not rule out further strikes in protest at "strings'' attached to a two-year offer from London Underground. The package aims to reduce the working week to 35 hours and would give staff a pay increase of about 6.75 per cent. Last-minute contact between the two sides yesterday failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The walkout began to affect the system last night as staff due to start work at 6.30pm failed to turn up. Employees who began work before 6.30pm completed their shifts.

Speaking at his union's annual conference in Ports- mouth, Mr Crow predicted that the industrial action would be solidly supported, but apologised to travellers for the inconvenience, insisting he was not shedding "crocodile tears''. The conditions attached to the London Underground deal would reduce the workforce, Mr Crow said.

He said the RMT had called off another stoppage, scheduled to take place today, among employees of the infrastructure company Network Rail after a new deal on pensions was tabled by the chief executive, John Armitt. The Mayor of London or his transport commissioner should have taken a leaf out of Mr Armitt's book and intervened to avert the action.

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