Mayor urged to hold Tube strike talks

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The Independent Travel

London's mayor was urged today to cancel his trip to next week's Conservative Party conference and hold talks to avert another 24-hour Tube strike which will cause travel chaos.

Thousands of members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) are set to walk out for 24 hours from 7pm on Sunday in a row over 800 job cuts.

Mayor Boris Johnson today spelled out contingency plans to deal with the industrial action, which will coincide with the Tory conference in Birmingham.

TSSA leader Gerry Doherty said: "Boris seems determined to steal the show from David Cameron next week with a bout of union-bashing to cheer up delegates attending the Tory conference.

"Even at this late hour, we would urge him to stop playing to the gallery and enter into urgent talks to resolve this dispute before Sunday evening.

"This dispute is too serious for him to be playing politics. Cheap applause in Birmingham may help him one day to become leader of the Tory Party but it will not help the London travelling public to get to work on Monday."

Transport bosses are laying on more than 100 extra buses, increasing capacity for more than 10,000 more journeys on the river, organising marshalled taxi ranks and delaying or curtailing planned roadworks.

Volunteers will also be positioned at Tube, bus, and rail stations to help commuters with their journeys and provide maps and other information, and people who own a bike are being encouraged to cycle to work.

Transport for London said London Underground ran a third of its normal services during a walkout last month, carrying more than a million people.

Mr Johnson said: "As we saw in the last strike, the belligerent actions of the union leaderships will not bring London to a halt. They may disrupt Londoners, but they will not stop us from getting around our city. We will keep London moving.

"We are expending every effort to give people alternative ways of getting around - boosting river and bus services, holding back roadworks and encouraging people to cycle.

"This strike is pointless and I hope that this time - when Londoners beat the strike once again - the RMT and TSSA leaderships will see sense and return to talks to avert further disruption."

Transport commissioner Peter Hendy said: "There is no need for this strike at all and we continue to make every effort to avoid a dispute.

"Despite the RMT and TSSA leaderships saying this is about safety, they have failed to raise a single safety-related point with London Underground in hour upon hour of talks, and have not responded to our request that they set out their specific safety concerns."

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today: "We have warned repeatedly that TfL's cuts plans are playing fast and loose with safety and will turn the Tube into a death trap.

"It is a scandal that the London mayor and his transport officials have chosen to ignore those warnings and have failed to engage in serious talks with the unions on the issues at the heart of this current dispute.

"We remain available for talks but the current cuts to jobs and safety must be halted before we have a tragedy on our hands.

"RMT and TSSA members have been faced with a stark choice: we either strike now and disrupt the service in order to force TfL to take this issue seriously or we sit back and wait for a disaster. We have no choice but to take action on behalf of Londoners who depend daily on a safe transport system."

More strikes are planned for November if the deadlock is not broken.