Millions of commuters in London have faced delay and disruption after Tube staff went on strike over plans to close ticket offices on the subway train system.
The 48-hour walk-out on the network, which carries one billion passengers a year, led to three of the 11 Tube lines being shut on Wednesday and others operating a reduced service, while many stations were closed.
With hoards of commuters forced above ground in search of buses and overland trains, the streets of London were unusually packed with people walking to work during rush hour and the roads were thronged with traffic.
The transport misery, set to last until the end of the strike on Thursday evening, was compounded by delays on overland train services caused by rain and high winds.
The strike action, and another 48-hour strike planned next week, is being taken by the RMT and TSSA unions in protest at the closure of all London Underground’s 278 ticket offices, with the loss of more than 950 jobs.
Union leaders warn many stations will become “ghost stations” and feel unsafe, and say that services will also suffer.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party, said the strike was “pointless” and the reforms were “essential”.
He noted that there would be no compulsory redundancies and the changes would save millions of pounds to reinvest in the Tube system.
“It’s appalling that a tiny minority of union members have sought to disrupt the working lives of millions of Londoners today,” he said.
Both sides claim public support for their position, and both Johnson and firebrand RMT leader Bob Crow accused the other of holding a gun to their heads.