London faces two-day Underground strike chaos

A man walks past hoardings surrounding the building work at London Underground's Bond Street station in central London on Jan 27, 2014. London faces travel chaos on Tuesday when workers on the Underground railway go on strike for 48 hours to pro
A man walks past hoardings surrounding the building work at London Underground's Bond Street station in central London on Jan 27, 2014. London faces travel chaos on Tuesday when workers on the Underground railway go on strike for 48 hours to protest the closure of ticket offices with the loss of hundreds of jobs. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - London faces travel chaos on Tuesday when workers on the Underground railway go on strike for 48 hours to protest the closure of ticket offices with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Talks between the government and two unions behind the strike on the world's oldest subway system broke down on Monday without agreement.

It is the latest in a series of strikes on the "Tube" since Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-led coalition took office promising austerity measures to curb a record deficit.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, widely considered a party leadership rival to Cameron, has announced plans to close many of the Underground's ticket offices and cut 953 jobs.

Two unions - the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) - called the strike in protest.

"We are prepared to suspend the industrial action if the mayor is prepared to suspend the job losses," RMT general secretary Bob Crow told a news conference.

Underground staff will now go on strike from 2100 GMT (5am Singapore time) on Tuesday for 48 hours and again at the same time the following week, union leaders said.

Most Underground lines will run heavily restricted services, with Londoners having to take to buses, bikes and even go on foot to beat the strike.

After Monday's talks broke down, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes offered to meet mayor Johnson "anytime, anywhere" in the next 24 hours to try and reach a deal.