London: Commuters endured rush-hour chaos on Wednesday as a 48-hour strike shut down most of the capital’s underground rail network.
Faced with closed stations and enormous bus queues, millions of people either walked, cycled or even roller-skated into work.
Transport for London arranged taxi-sharing at major rail termini and laid on free river services and guided commuter cycle routes.
The 250-mile underground network normally runs over 500 trains at peak hours and carries some 3.5 million passengers a day.
But not all lines were closed. London Underground said there was a good service on the Northern Line and reduced services running on sections of the District, Jubilee, Victoria, Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines.
Docklands Light Railway and London Overground services operated normally.
The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which called the action over jobs and pay, failed to reach an agreement with Tube bosses at last-ditch talks on Tuesday.
“Services are currently running on more than half of London Underground lines,” said Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy.
“Clearly, support for the RMT leadership’s actions is far from the level they were expecting.”
The RMT countered that the action is being solidly supported by members across the network and accused City Hall and London Mayor Boris Johnson of “sabotaging” the talks at the ACAS conciliation service.
“After nearly seven hours at ACAS yesterday, the basis of a deal had been thrashed out that could have settled the dispute,” said RMT General Secretary Bob Crow.
“ACAS officials went off to get the document typed up and by the time they came back the underground management had reneged on it,” he said, pointing the finger at Johnson and Hendy.
The strike, which officially ends on Thursday evening, is likely to cause widespread disruption into Friday morning.
It will also hit fans travelling to Wembley Stadium on Wednesday evening for England’s World Cup qualifier against Andorra.