LONDON Millions of commuters face transport chaos this week as workers on the London Underground rail network hold a two-day strike in a dispute over planned job cuts.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT) will stage a 48-hour walkout beginning on the evening of April 28 after talks aimed at resolving the row over plans to close manned ticket offices broke down earlier this month.
A similar strike in February brought the network, used by some three million people most days, to a virtual standstill.
A second walkout was averted to allow the talks to take place. Another three-day strike has been called from May 5.
The strike action follows the March 11 death of RMT leader Bob Crow, whose success in extracting concessions from employers through hard talk and industrial disruption has set the mould for those vying to replace him, trade union experts say.
Transport for London (TfL), which argues that less than three percent of journeys on the 151-year-old tube network now involve passengers using ticket offices, has said it will run a limited service on some lines, with some stations closed. Extra bus and river boat services will also be added.
"A lot of people are going to be late," said 25-year-old architect Stefan Wilson, who is able to walk to work in the City of London from his home in Wapping.
"If you work in an office job it will have less impact. It is going to be worst for people like nurses who cannot do their job from home."
TfL says its modernization plans, including cutting 953 station jobs, can be achieved without compulsory redundancies or any loss of pay to workers and with the promise stations would remain staffed at all times.
The union says the cuts risk safety and would damage quality of service, and has blamed rail management for the failure of eight weeks of talks. It said it hoped the strikes would lead them to engage in "meaningful and serious talks".
A TfL spokesman on Sunday said it hoped to hold last-minute talks with the RMT on Monday aimed at averting the walkout.
British Prime Minister David Cameron last week called the strike "unjustified and unacceptable", saying it would hit millions of families and cause chaos for businesses.
Business lobbies have said previous tube strikes have cost London's economy up to 50 million pounds ($84 million) a day.
($1 = 0.5948 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)