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United Kingdom

Millions of London commuters hit by Tube strike

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the latest walkout by London Underground staff. It's the first in a series of planned strikes, branded by Cameron as "shameful."

Millions of Londoners were reported to have been affected by a strike on the British capital's Tube subway system on Wednesday.

The industrial action saw London Underground services reduced by around 70 percent, affecting up to three million commuters - the travel chaos wasn't helped by gale-force winds and heavy rain, which have battered the south of England in recent days.

Reports of frayed tempers and packed buses in the capital were commonplace during the morning and evening rush hours.

Tube rail drivers plan to stay out for two days this week, and a further two next week in a dispute over job cuts and modernization.

However, this latest round of industrial action has brought fresh calls to curtail the rights of unions to call strikes in key infrastructure areas.

On his official Twitter feed, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the walk-out was "shameful, bringing misery to millions of Londoners."

"I unreservedly condemn this strike. There is absolutely no justification for a strike. We need a modernized tube line working for the millions of Londoners who use it every day," he added later in parliament.

Trade union says strike "rock solid"

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT), and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) called the strike to protest against job losses and a proposal to close manned ticket offices.

The changes are part of the planned modernization of the 151-year-old underground transport system.

RMT union leader Bob Crow said in a statement the strike was "simply a reflection of the staff anger at attempts to bulldoze through cuts to jobs, services and safety which would reduce the tube to a dangerous, hollowed-out shell."

Crow added that the unions were available for talks with London Mayor Boris Johnson to resolve the dispute.

Strike "pointless" says London mayor

Johnson said he respected the rights of the trade unions to represent their workers, but the modernization plans had to go ahead.

The London Mayor also said he favors new rules permitting industrial action only if at least 50 percent of union members take part in strike ballots.

The first 48-hour walk-out is expected to end on Thursday evening.

lw/dr (AFP, Reuters)

DW.DE