Commuters battle London Tube strike as businesses lament losses
London Underground train workers were staging their second 48-hour strike this year in protest at job cuts and office closures in a dispute that is expected to cost businesses millions of pounds as commuters struggle to reach their work.
The walk-out that started at 2030 GMT today, and a planned three-day strike next week, is over plans to close about 250 ticket offices and 950 jobs in a restructuring that Transport for London (TfL) says could save 50 million pounds a year.
TfL, which runs London's public transport network, says less than 3 percent of journeys on the 151-year-old Tube network involve passengers using ticket offices as most use electronic travel cards and it guarantees no one will be forced from a job.
A two-day strike in February crippled the network used by about 3 million people daily as only limited services ran on some lines, forcing commuters to squeeze onto extra buses, river boats, overground trains, or cycle, walk or run to work.
The Federation of Small Businesses estimated that strike cost small businesses, which make up about 99 percent of London companies, about 600 million pounds ($1 billion) in lost working hours, business and productivity.
"Many businesses will be rightly concerned about the potential impact five days will have," the federation's national chairman John Allan said in a statement.
"This is particularly unwelcome as the latest employment figures underlined that the UK economy is finally firmly back on track," he said, adding that businesses should look at contingency plans for the next action planned from May 5.
Data due tomorrow is likely to show that Britain's economy has come within a whisker of recovering its pre-recession size.