Subway strike causes travel chaos in London

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Millions of Londoners faced travel chaos Tuesday as workers on the city's Underground train network staged a 24-hour strike over planned job cuts.

Commuters were forced to join long queues for crowded bus and boat services, walk or cycle to get to work as all of the network's 11 lines were either suspended or badly disrupted.

On a normal weekday, passengers make about 3.5 million journeys on the Underground but that is likely to dwindle because of the strike.

The walk-out is over the planned axing of 800 out of 19,000 jobs on the Underground, also known as the Tube.

It was accompanied by a war of words between Transport for London (TfL), the local government body responsible for the city's transport network, and trade unions.

TfL claimed 40 percent of Tube trains were in operation and that there were services operating on all but one line.

Underground boss Mike Brown said: "Londoners will doubtless find it incredible that the two union leaderships are pursing this action when they have been given cast-iron assurances that the staffing changes we are making come with no compulsory redundancies".

But the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union insisted there was "rock solid" support for the action, saying around 11,000 people have joined the strike.

It also accused authorities of "playing fast and loose" with safety by appealing for volunteers to help run skeleton services.

It is staging the strike along with the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

Travellers spoke of some journeys taking twice as long as usual, clogged pavements and large queues for bus and ferry services down the River Thames, where extra services were being laid on.

The strike also provides the first real test for London's cycle hire scheme, which was launched in July by Mayor Boris Johnson.

Many of the city's main streets were busy with cyclists using the distinctive grey and blue bikes amid heavy demand for the 5,000 available.

The strike is due to last until early Wednesday.

© 2010 AFP

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