'Wimbledon may be a fatal attraction'

REGULAR rail passengers resigned themselves last night to either a day of rest or retribution today, writes James Cusick.

As signalmen halted the network for the second Wednesday in a row, the travelling faithful appeared to be far from boiling point. But one calm commuter said: 'Just give us time.'

Underneath the electronic noticeboard at Liverpool Street's platform nine yesterday, the welcoming message read, despite the coming strike, 'Gateway to East Anglia.' A waiting passenger commented: 'It's not going to be much of a bloody gateway tomorrow, is it?'

The evening exodus from the City of London was beginning earlier than usual. Noticeboards, normally ignored, were being read with all the concentration of a train spotter at Crewe. Strangers chatted about their coming adventures. 'I'll just take the bus and get here on Friday,' said one pinstripe suit. Another pinstripe said: 'It's all deplorable. I'll take the car . . . and I know, I know, don't tell me, it'll be chaos.'

The huge timetable above the main concourse told passengers that 'industrial action by some members of the RMT rail union' would result in the complete closure of the station today. One man, struggling with briefcase and suitcase, said: 'If they're after 11 per cent they haven't got a dog's chance in hell. But 5 per cent? Maybe.'

So was 'the strike' the main topic of office conversation? Apparently not. A grinning accountant said: 'I fear I may have to remain at home tomorrow.' Was everyone in his office likewise concerned? He said again: 'I fear BBC Wimbledon may be a fatal attraction.'

However for one female rail traveller the strike has meant unwanted holidays. She said: 'I took last Wednesday off, and I'll take tomorrow off. But if this goes on any longer, I'll have to begin struggling in from Bishop's Stortford.'