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Tube Unions Say Will Consider Strike Action Again in New Year

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Londoners to Face ‘Severely Disrupted’ Commute Strike Begins
Passengers jostle to enter the Underground station at Waterloo Station in central LondonPhotographer: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- London Underground union leaders said workers may strike again in the New Year, after “rock-solid” support for today’s action disrupted services on the subway network known as the Tube.

The 24-hour walkout, the last of four scheduled to protest against plans to cut 800 jobs, began at 6:30 p.m. yesterday. The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union said today’s action has had “the most impact yet” with more stations closed.

Transport for London said it has run more than 40 percent of trains today, with 10 out of 11 lines operating some service. The Northern line was operating across its full length, and the Circle line was shut since most stations are covered by other lines, TfL said. The Victoria, Jubilee, Bakerloo, District, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, Central, Hammersmith & City, and Waterloo & City lines are all running partial or special services.

“It will be busy getting home tonight,” TfL spokesman Matt Brown said in a phone interview. The Tube had around half of the passenger levels it normally carries this morning, he said. Services should be “back to normal” by tomorrow morning, he said.

Strikes could continue after the Christmas period, with a possible “escalation of the action,” RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said, according to a Press Association report. A spokesman for the RMT confirmed his remarks.

‘Ransom’

To “threaten more strike action next year is staggering and will be seen by Londoners as what it is -- an attempt to hold our city to ransom,” Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground and London Rail, said in an e-mailed statement.

The stoppage, the seventh to shut the Tube since 2002, involves around 10,000 employees. More than 100 extra buses and capacity for more than 10,000 extra river crossings have been organized, TfL spokesman Ben Pennington said by phone.

TfL said it carried half of its normal passenger levels during the last strike.

The action is likely to cost the economy at least 48 million pounds ($75 million), London Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman Andrew Horne said last week.

The timing of the strike “is terrible, with icy conditions taking hold and the possibility of snow,” LCCI Chief Executive Officer Colin Stanbridge said in an e-mailed statement.

Temperatures in London are predicted to dip as low as minus 1 degree Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit) today, according to Global Weather Platform.

TfL condemned the RMT and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association for refusing to continue what it said were constructive talks, according to an e-mailed statement.

The strike action “is about safety,” Crow said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “We will be taking that message to passengers as we build the campaign against the tube cuts.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Branton at pbranton@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net

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