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JEREMY HOBSON: It may be a holiday here in the U.S., but in the U.K. it is a normal work day — or at least it was supposed to be. Commuters in London are bracing for two days of strikes on the Underground subway system, the Tube. More than 3.5 million people use it every day. Joining us now live to talk about the strike is Marketplace’s London bureau chief Stephen Beard. Good morning, Stephen.
STEPHEN BEARD: Hello, Jeremy.
HOBSON: So are you expecting chaos over there today?
BEARD: Yes. It’s pretty chaotic at the best of times, but widespread disruptions yes. However, extra buses have been laid on and extra riverboats to ferry people up and town the Thames. And people have been urged to take to their bikes and pedal to work.
Howard Collins is a senior executive of the Tube. And he says even some Tube trains will run today. Speaking to reporters outside of a Tube station, he said London will not grind to a halt.
HOWARD COLLINS: Well we’re working very hard across London to provide extra services, 100 extra buses, cycle routes, guided cycle routes as well. Obviously helping people park with their cycles. We anticipate running a service.
HOBSON: So Stephen, what’s the strike all about anyway?
BEARD: It’s the first of a series of 24-hour stoppages. They’re planned over job cuts on the Tube. Tube managers want to shed 800 station staff positions. They say these cuts are necessary. The whole of the public sector is tightening its belt to reduce the deficit. But the unions insist this will jeopardize passenger safety. They point to an incident only last week, when station staff called the police and they arrested a man on a Tube platform carrying a 3-foot long Samurai sword, two knives, and two loaded pistols.
HOBSON: You never know what you’re going to find on the Tube. Thanks, Stephen.
BEARD: OK Jeremy.
HOBSON: Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London.