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New Year's Eve Strike Fails to Shut London Tube

January 01, 2006|From Associated Press

LONDON — Revelers managed to move around London on Saturday to usher in the New Year despite a 24-hour subway strike, which slowed but failed to cripple the British capital's transport system.

Leaders of the RMT union had expected the subway to grind to a halt when guards and ticket office workers left their posts at noon. But London Underground managed to keep most of the Tube running, saying only about 40 of the sprawling network's 275 stations were closed.

Authorities said the stoppage had little effect. Nevertheless, many Londoners were left confused about which stations would be open, and worried about their journey home.

"It has put a real downer on New Year's Eve," said Colin Munsie, 50, ducking into Baker Street Station. "For one of the biggest cities in the world not to have a proper transport system working on a night like tonight is a disgrace."

"This whole strike has been very inconvenient and I think has lost the Tube workers some support from the public," said Jodie Schaffer, 28, heading by subway to a party in North London.

London Underground said it was the first subway strike over the New Year period, although unions have threatened Dec. 31 stoppages since 1999. The strike echoed a three-day walkout by New York transit workers over pensions that shut down the city's subways and buses just before Christmas.

The RMT union is protesting new staff assignments and schedules that they say spread workers too thin and threaten safety -- a complaint that managers deny. About two-thirds of the Tube's 6,000 workers belong to the union. London Underground said nonunion workers plus managers were able to keep the network open.

"We are running train services on all lines. The vast majority of our stations are all open," said Mike Brown, London Underground's chief operating officer. Drivers were not taking part in the strike.

Another strike is planned for Jan. 8.

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