Commuters avoid tube strike delays

IPSWICH train station was quiet during the rush-hour today as people avoided travelling to London due to the Tube strike.There were noticeably fewer people rushing through the automatic doors as commuters chose alternatives to miss the travel chaos which has crippled the capital.

IPSWICH train station was quiet during the rush-hour today as people avoided travelling to London due to the Tube strike.

There were noticeably fewer people rushing through the automatic doors as commuters chose alternatives to miss the travel chaos which has crippled the capital.

The platforms, normally heaving with crowds of businessmen, looked unusually empty as passengers abandoned the trains for their cars.

Only those that could walk to work from Liverpool Street station seemed to be still using the trains.

Picket lines were mounted outside Tube stations across London last night after last-ditch talk failed to avert the 24-hour strike.

Thousands of drivers, signallers and maintenance workers walked out at 6.30pm yesterday causing the worst travel disruption in the capital for two years.

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LU admitted that its services, used by three million people a day, would be severely disrupted and handed out leaflets urging people to walk to work.

Roads into the capital were packed with traffic during the rush hour and Tube services would be hit for hours after the strike ends at 6.30pm.

Many Tube lines were at a complete standstill with just a few of the normal 500 trains running on parts of the District, Jubilee, Metropolitan and East London lines.

The Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Circle, Central, Bakerloo and Waterloo and City lines had no services running at all.

Many people decided to drive to work despite being urged to leave their cars at home. The AA said roads into the capital were busier than normal.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, said that last-minute negotiations with LU had failed to break the deadlock over pay and conditions and further strikes were possible.

Mr Crow apologised to commuters for the day of chaos and launched a fresh attack on London's Mayor Ken Livingstone and Transport Commissioner Bob Kiley for not doing enough to resolve the dispute.

The Mayor angered the union last week by saying he would cross its picket lines if he was in the RMT and yesterday raised fears of huge job cuts among station staff.

The company accused the union of demanding a four-day working week, which it said it could not afford.

Under the proposed deal workers would receive a 3.5% pay rise this year and the rate of inflation plus 0.5% next year as well as a clear commitment of a 35-hour week for all staff by July 2006.

LU had also increased pension contributions to ensure all employees remained eligible for the final salary scheme.

LU said it had assured the union that all employees would be on a 35-hour week within two years but said the RMT had yesterday tabled demands for the trial introduction of a four-day week.

Managers said they had made it clear that a four-day week was unaffordable and would lead to substantially higher tube fares.

Mr Livingstone said: "I support the position taken by London Underground management that the introduction of a four-day week in the present pay agreement would lead to a crippling fares increase for Londoners.

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