Tube strike: Commuters suffer 'severe disruption'

Crowds at Oxford Circus Station The evening rush hour saw crowds gather at the stations which remained open during the strike

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Commuters travelling in London are experiencing "severe disruption" as Tube workers strike.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union have walked out for 48 hours over plans to close all ticket offices at a cost of 960 jobs.

Transport for London said 50% of services were running compared to about 40% during the last walkout.

The strike is due to end at 20:59 BST on Wednesday but disruption may continue into Thursday morning.

The union and London Underground (LU) have met more than 40 times through the arbitration service Acas since the last 48-hour strike in February, but talks broke down on Monday.

LU has said it plans to run as many services as possible, supplemented extra bus and river services, but customers are advised to check their journey before they travel.

Services running at the moment, all with a reduced frequency and with a number of stations closed, are:

Queues at London Bridge There were big queues building up at stations and bus stops on Tuesday morning
Crowds wait for buses outside Victoria station The strike got the go-ahead on Monday after talks broke down
Commuters at Hyde Park Corner on the first day of a 48 hour strike Commuters used alternative transport methods to get around London
Queues outside Stratford Station A 72-hour strike is due to take place next week
An old Routemaster bus is seen in Vauxhall Bridge Road Transport for London has brought 40 vintage buses back into service

Where services were being operated, trains began to run at about 07:00 and will finish at about 23:00. The last services from central London may also depart much earlier, at about 21:30.

RMT members are on strike over plans to close ticket offices

TfL said about 87% of Oyster cards that would usually be seen on the network have been used and there were almost 8,000 buses on the roads - the most ever operated in London - after an extra 266 were put into service.

These included 40 vintage buses including the green AEC (Associated Equipment Company) Regent Mark III built in the 1950s.

And it said there has been a 70% increase in Barclays cycle hires.

Analysis

Weary resignation or outright anger is probably what most commuters feel.

The concern is there doesn't seem to be room for a compromise from either side.

Poor industrial relations haven't helped and the absence of the late Bob Crow has changed the landscape.

The RMT has changed tack and offered to suspend its action for a public consultation.

There could also be room for movement on the creation of visitor centres as an alternative to ticket offices.

There will probably be more talks on Friday but to avoid more strikes one of the sides will have to back down.

Many commuters now seem just as angry at both sides in this acrimonious dispute that could drag on and on.

TfL as a whole wants to save £4.2bn by 2020. The plans to close ticket offices are expected to save £50m a year.

The RMT said it would have suspended the strike if LU had agreed to a public consultation over the plans, which do not include any compulsory redundancies.

The acting general secretary of the RMT union, Mick Cash, described the strike as "solidly supported" and accused London Underground of backtracking on an earlier deal to review its plan to close ticket offices.

"They're looking to make £50m worth of cuts and to do that they want to get rid of every single booking office and 1,000 jobs," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Now we took industrial action in February this year and we suspended it following a deal done with our former general secretary, Bob Crow, where they had promised to review every single station.

"And there are over 200 stations and, do you know, what we've done is five."

But the managing director of London Underground, Mike Brown, told Today: "We agreed that we would start by looking at the different station types, which group into five different types, and we'd look at those first.

Start Quote

I'm afraid what you've heard from Mick Cash is nonsense”

End Quote Mike Brown London Underground

"And now we're in the midst of doing the full station by station review starting with the Piccadilly Line.

"So I'm afraid what you've heard from Mick Cash is nonsense."

'Farcical'

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the idea it was a solidly-supported strike was "farcical" and repeated there would be no compulsory redundancies.

He added: "This action is the result of a minority of just one union, the RMT, who are refusing to see the logic of what we are trying to achieve.

"We can't, as some would have us do, just stand by and force Londoners to pay for ticket offices.

"A resource which currently costs Londoners money, and where less than 3% of journeys begin, can be delivered better and far more efficiently with these changes."

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "It's unacceptable that millions of people are having their lives disrupted by today's Tube strike in London."

Boris Johnson said it was time to embrace technological advances, while London Underground's Mike Brown claimed many services were running

The strike is likely to hit university students taking degree exams. On its website, King's College London says it is aware of students' concerns and will review the impact of strike action.

Employers' organisation the CBI said the strike was likely to have had a "limited impact on the wider economy".

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills, said: "Employers make it possible for staff to work remotely.

"However, there will understandably be a significant impact on those businesses where that has simply not been possible."

The RMT is also holding a 48-hour strike which began at 03:00 on Tuesday on the Heathrow Express in a separate row over jobs, pay and cuts.

And football fans travelling to Chelsea's Champions League match with Atletico Madrid at 19:45 on Wednesday will also be affected.

The union is set to strike for 72 hours from 21:00 on Monday, 5 May if the ticket office dispute is not resolved.

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