The Rail Strike: Commuters told 'no skeleton service, prepare for worst'

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BRITISH RAIL said last night that it was unlikely to attempt to run skeleton services. The overall message to commuters was 'prepare for the worst,' writes James Cusick.

The choice for most travellers will be to stay at home or take to the roads. AA Roadwatch said many people would take the day off. 'At the last strike the roads were empty,' a spokesman said. 'I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same again.'

The strike has provided an unexpected opportunity for the organisers of National Bike Week, which started at the weekend. Peter McGrath, a co-ordinator, urged commuters to discover the delights of cycling to work.

For those not taking to two wheels, one railway service has planned a full timetable. The Chiltern Line is expected to ferry passengers between Bicester, Oxfordshire, and London Marylebone. A similar service was run during last year's one-day stoppages. Trains are controlled by one signalbox staffed mainly by non-RMT signal staff.

On the Midland main line routes, Railtrack says a 'revised' service will operate. Trains will go from Derby and Nottingham to London St Pancras calling at Midland main line stations. The service will not travel to Sheffield. Services will be hourly but the normal timetable will not apply.

In London, 15 Underground stations will also close today. Parts of the Underground system run on BR track and are controlled by RMT signal staff. On the Bakerloo line in north-west London, there will be no services between Queen's Park and Harrow and Wealdstone. South London District Line services between Turnham Green and Richmond and between East Putney and Wimbledon will not run.

In Glasgow, where the urban rail network is run on BR track, services will not operate.

In London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, police confirmed that despite the strike, normal parking restrictions would apply. The Department of Transport's London office announced last night that emergency parking would be provided. They include in central London areas of Hyde Park between 5am and midnight; routes around Regents Park between 5am and midnight; and around Greenwich Park in south London all day.

There will also be spaces at the Royal Albert Dock entrance gate 9, which is served by the Docklands Light Railway. These facilities should provide a total of more than 10,000 spaces.

British Rail managers also warned that delays would continue on Thursday morning.