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Tube passengers face chaos as safety row strike cripples services

Millions of people returning to work after the festive break suffered travel chaos because of a strike by London Underground workers which crippled services across the capital.

Tube stations were closed and only a limited service was running on 10 of the 11 lines because of the 24-hour walkout over job cuts and ticket office closures.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) were ending the strike at 6pm, but the network was effectively shutting down early on Monday evening until Tuesday.

Workers mounted picket lines outside Tube stations and were said to be solidly supporting the action, which caused massive traffic jams and long queues at bus stops.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he "condemned" the industrial action and called on the unions to return to the negotiating table.

He said he had inherited the dispute but was taking action to address the unions' concerns, calling the industrial action "completely unnecessary".

"I accept we need more staff and we have been having good discussions with the unions which should have carried on."

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "This action has been forced on us by savage cuts to jobs that have reduced London Underground to an under-staffed death trap at a time of heightened security and safety alert."

The union also accused LU of under-estimating the impact of the strike.

London Underground chief operating officer Steve Griffiths said: "I thank customers for their patience as they try to make their journeys today during this unnecessary strike. We have hundreds of Travel Ambassadors on hand to help keep customers informed of what services are running and to help them get around the capital.

"This strike is unnecessary. We had always intended to review staffing levels and have had constructive discussions with the unions.

"We agree that we need more staff in our stations and have already started to recruit 200 extra staff and this is likely to increase further as we work through the other areas that need to be addressed.

"Taking into account existing vacancies and natural turnover, this means that over 600 staff will be recruited for stations this year."

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "I pay tribute to my members whose commitment to public service is so strong they are now prepared to forgo a day's pay today and strike if that's what it takes to warn the public that the Tube is no longer as safely run as it was this time last year.

"The strength of feeling on this issue is reflected in the solidity of the strike with just a few trains running at the edges of the system."

Transport for London (TfL) said it was running a limited services on 10 of 11 Tube lines, adding that 69% of stations were open at some point on Monday.

Edward Cooke, chief executive of retail property body Revo, said: "London shops, restaurants and bars, which already face a perfect storm of rising costs through the business rates revaluation, national living wage and inflation caused by the weaker pound, must now deal with the major economic repercussions of a 24-hour Tube strike.

"Based on the near-10% dip in footfall on previous strike days, we expect similar disruption and for the strike to disproportionately affect thousands of smaller retailers across London."

Theresa May's official spokeswoman said: "As with the Southern Rail strikes, the Prime Minister thinks it is unfair to be creating disruption for people in such an unfair and unjustified way."

Mr Khan added: "I share the deep frustration of millions of commuters whose journeys have been disrupted, all because of a completely unnecessary strike.

"I'd like to pay tribute to all those who endured long and difficult journeys to get to work today, and to thank the TfL staff who worked so hard to keep the buses moving and open nearly 70% of stations across the Tube network, despite the strike.

"We've made huge progress on addressing this dispute, which began under Boris Johnson, and we are committed to resolving it amicably.

"A good deal, that will ensure station safety and staffing levels across the Tube network, remains on offer, and I urge the unions to continue talks. Londoners deserve a resolution to this issue without any further industrial action."

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