War of words over London Underground train strike

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Millions of London commuters faced difficult journeys home Wednesday as the latest strike on the Underground train network drew to a close, amid a war of words over the effects of the industrial action. The walkout by thousands of staff on the transport system over proposed job cuts officially ended at 2100 GMT, but disruption was set to continue for the rest of the day with passengers facing long queues and overcrowded trains.

Unions and transport chiefs in the British capital meanwhile traded verbal blows over how much disruption the strike had caused.

London Underground claimed that during the latest action, which follows two previous walkouts in September and October, some 40 percent of trains were running.

"Despite the dire predictions of union leaders, the city has not been paralysed and people are able to get home," said Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground.

But Bob Crow, head of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, strongly disagreed with the claims and accused transport bosses of "resorting to bare-faced lies."

Transport chiefs "should face up to the reality that today's action has actually been the most successful to date," he said.

Some 11,000 members of the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association took part in the industrial action in protest at plans to axe 800 jobs, mainly in ticket offices.

The RMT -- which says up to 2,000 jobs or 10 percent of the workforce could eventually go -- has also highlighted how the actions of Underground workers were last week praised at an inquest into the July 2005 bombings on London's transport system.

The planned job cuts come amid an austerity drive in Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government last month announced average spending cuts of 19 percent across most departments.

BBC journalists and London firefighters are both set to stage strikes Friday and Saturday, while firefighters also held an eight-hour walk-out Monday.

© 2010 AFP

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