The London Tube strike started slowly at 6pm yesterday with only three of the 246 stations closed, but five hours later 15 stations were closed because they had too few staff mermbers for health and safety regulations to be observed.
A further nine above-ground stations, mainly on the District line, were unstaffed.
The Bakerloo, Central, Piccadilly and Victoria lines were affected.
The three stations immediately closed last night were Tottenham Hale and Blackhorse Road, near the north end of the Victoria line, and Wapping on the East London line. London Transport said last night that there could be serious disruption today. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union had called the 48-hour strike. The RMT said that it would not know until today how many of the 16,000 Underground staff had join the strike.
The union is demanding that there be no compulsory redundancies or changes to employment conditions if a public/private partnership plan for the Underground, announced by the Government last year, goes ahead. London Underground has accused the RMT of making unreasonable demands.
A London Transport spokesman said: "It looks like the RMT is targeting specific stations." But a union spokesman denied this.
A few years ago, a strike on the tube would have been front page news and would have thrown the system into chaos. This is just the dying throes of the rail unions resisting the inevitable. The fact that there was little disruption is the remarkable thing. This is not necessarily a great thing for Londoners, just inevitable. John Prescott is in the uncomfortable position of being the hatchet man - he is being sacrificed for the interests behind the Blair government. The reason I posted the story was to emphasize the significance of the perception of "partnership" between the government and the private companies involved in PRESTIGE.
PRESTIGE is a done deal, installations of new station gates have already commenced. I am quite surprised that there has not been more interest in the stock recently, but I remain supremely confident that there will be soon.