London Underground to Meet Unions in Push to Avert May 5 Walkout

London Underground will meet with subway unions on Friday in a push to avert a three-day strike next week after walkouts over job cuts today drove away almost half the passengers who typically make 3 million daily journeys.

Talks with all parties involved in the dispute will take place at the London offices of the state-sponsored Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service from 10 a.m. on May 2, according to a statement from Acas.

Londoners relying on the Tube to reach work saw disruption from a 48-hour strike ease this morning as trains ran on all 11 lines. About 90 percent of regular swipe-card holders rode the network, though total passenger numbers were 44 percent below the usual level, according to Transport for London, which manages the subway on behalf of Mayor Boris Johnson.

“With more staff arriving for work than yesterday we have been able to run 52 percent of the train service and keep around 80 percent of stations open,” London Underground Managing Director Mike Brown said in a statement, adding that the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union should “call off the strikes and get back to working with us.”

RMT spokesman Geoff Martin said in an e-mailed response to questions that next week’s 72-hour action, slated to begin May 5, is “still on.” London Underground didn’t specify how many extra employees had turned up for work today.

Clogged Roads

The Waterloo & City line was open this morning for the first time since the strike began at 9 p.m. Monday, restoring a key link between Britain’s busiest surface rail station and the main financial district during the rush hour.

At the same time, traffic clogged roads and pavements were crowded as a 1 1/2 hour delay in the first trains until after 7 a.m. pushed some people to make other plans.

“It’s still possible to get to work, but most people I know have had to change their usual plan and you wouldn’t want to have to do it every day,” said Robert Swift, 46, a shop manager who had traveled on the Northern Line to Moorgate station in the City from his home in south London.

TfL stopped short of claiming victory in the strike, which ends tonight, saying that while the city “is working and open for business,” conditions for customers have been “tough.”

The RMT said today that TfL and London Underground had resorted to running “ghost trains and skeleton operations” in order to claim an exaggerated level of available services.

‘Bogus Timetables’

“Instead of producing bogus timetables, Tube chiefs should be round the table responding positively to RMT’s proposals for resolving a dispute which is about nothing more than cash-led cuts to jobs, services and safety,” it said.

The Tube has 270 stations, with 57,000 people using the busiest, Waterloo, in the three-hour morning peak. The Central Line is running at its extremities, though not to central London, while the Jubilee, Metropolitan, Victoria, District, Hammersmith & City and Piccadilly lines have reduced services.

Almost 8,000 buses are on London’s streets, a record, and demand for 10,000 rental bicycles surged 70 percent this morning to the highest level since the 2012 Olympic Games.

Today’s strike over proposed job cuts and ticket office closures came after the RMT halted the second of two February walkouts following an offer of talks that failed to produce an agreement.

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