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London Underground Prepares for Second Week of Walkouts

London Tube Strike
London Underground staff lock the entrance to the Newbury Park subway station in London, on Feb. 5, 2014. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

London Underground said it expects a second two-day strike over ticket-office closures and more than 750 job cuts to go ahead tonight after negotiations between management and unions failed to produce a breakthrough.

Labor leaders have instructed members to pursue a walkout that will affect subway services from about 9:30 p.m., Transport for London, which oversees the Underground or Tube, said in a statement, while adding that talks brokered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service are ongoing.

The Rail, Maritime & Transport union and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association are seeking to overturn Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to scrap ticket booths as people switch to Oyster swipe cards that open gates automatically when charged with credit. Today’s action is due to span 48 hours, with the London Chamber of Commerce putting the daily economic cost at 50 million pounds ($82 million).

“I urge the leaders of the RMT and TSSA to work with us to help shape the future of the Tube,” TfL Managing Director Mike Brown said. “All that another unnecessary strike will achieve is to lose those who take part another two days’ pay.

RMT spokesman Geoff Martin declined to comment on whether any progress has been made in talks to date.

Timetable Curbs

The subway, which usually carries more than 3.3 million people on weekdays, operated more than one-third of its usual services on Feb. 6, the second day of the previous 48-hour walkout, connecting with 75 percent of stations.

TfL said yesterday that trains that do operate during this week’s action will start late and finish early, operating between about 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Once again, the Waterloo & City line between Britain’s busiest railway station and financial district will be closed, with no services through the middle of the capital on the Central and Piccadilly lines and fewer frequencies elsewhere.

Johnson’s revamp plans, which include 24-hour services on some lines at weekends from 2015, would retain ticket offices at five central Tube stations plus Heathrow. TfL says more staff would be based on platforms and concourses, communicating via tablet computers, and that all stops would be manned while trains were running, though they’d be classified as Gateway, Destination, Metro or Local to reflect staffing needs.

Unions are also concerned that a project examining the viability of driverless trains could lead to the elimination of many more posts.

Richard Tracey, a spokesman for Johnson’s Conservative Party on the Greater London Authority, said yesterday in an e-mail that TfL could save as much as 50 million pounds annually by closing offices, and earn funds from renting space to retailers.

‘‘The past week has proved that London’s commuters are extremely resilient and we’re seeing real progress on the Tube,” Travey said.

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