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Subway strike disrupts commute.

Byline: Stephen Castle

LONDON -- A strike on the London Underground crippled much of the transport network Wednesday, disrupting the plans of millions of travelers and forcing commuters to cram into overcrowded buses and trains or walk or cycle to work.

The 48-hour strike, which began Tuesday evening, was called by two unions to protest plans to cut about 950 jobs and close all ticket offices as part of a restructuring that the London transportation authority says could save around 50 million pounds, or about $81 million, a year.

The strike shut down several parts of the subway system, which normally has some 3.5 million passenger trips each day. The lines that remained open were operating on a reduced schedule.

Despite promises of extra bus service, long, snaking lines built up Wednesday at bus stops. Many people faced long walks to work unless they could pounce on one of the city's shared bicycles.

There was frustration, too, for drivers.

"Traffic congestion was far more intense and went on much longer than normal,'' said Chris Lambert, a traffic analyst at Inrix, a company that monitors traffic flows.

An 11-mile traffic jam on one of the main arteries into the west of the city did not clear until around noon, Lambert said.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, one of the unions that called the strike, said there had been "overwhelming'' support for it from his members.

"All we have is a fringe service in the outer suburbs with virtually the whole of central London dependent on a skeleton service. Over 70 percent of the normal service is at a standstill,'' Cortes said in a statement.

Transport for London, the city's transportation authority, described the strike as "completely unnecessary'' and said that it was running at 35 percent of normal underground service.

In Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the disruption.

"There is absolutely no justification for a strike,'' he said.

But politically, Cameron may gain from the strike if angry travelers blame the trade unions.
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Author:Castle, Stephen
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 6, 2014
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