London Underground strike sparks war of words

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Commuters in London crowded on to buses or the few available trains to get to work Monday as the latest strike on the Underground sparked a war of words between unions and the transport company.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) insisted the 24-hour strike over job losses, which followed stoppages in September and October, had the most impact yet and accused Transport for London of operating empty "ghost" trains.

But TfL claimed Tube trains were running on 10 out of 11 lines, although most lines were only partially open.

RMT, led by the outspoken Bob Crow, say plans to cut 800 jobs in Tube stations will lead to a deterioration of safety standards, but TfL claim the increased use of swipe card tickets make the changes feasible.

Crow said: "It is clear that they want to bulldoze through their secret plans for unstaffed stations -- a move that we exposed in a key leaked document.

"The cuts on the Tube have led to a month of chaos and if we don't stand and fight now there will be far worse to come as the combination of staff cuts and failing infrastructure drags the Underground from crisis to crisis."

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground and London Rail, said the strike was "pointless", accused unions of trying to hold the company to ransom and called for a negotiated settlement.

"We want an end to this dispute and believe that a resolution will be only achieved through talks, not by further talks to disrupt London," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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