Thousands of workers manning the London Underground stayed off work on the first day of a 48-hour strike called by railway unions

“Mind the Gap.” The cheerful public announcement heard by millions every day went silent on Wednesday as thousands of workers manning the London Underground stayed off work on the first day of a 48-hour strike called by railway unions.

Employees are protesting company plans announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson to close all 278 ticket offices on the London Underground with the loss of 950 jobs.

Commuters were forced to take buses, overland trains, or simply walk to work. The rush hour saw heavy traffic on central London streets, with pavements crowded with office-goers walking to work.

The underground tube is the most used transportation system in London, with around three and a half million journeys made each day on 11 lines serving 270 stations.

Both Mr. Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron have condemned the strike, the former refusing to even negotiate with the unions until the strike is called off.

Mr. Johnson, who made a specific promise during his election campaign for Mayor that he would not cut jobs on the London Underground, now says it is inevitable as the closure of ticket offices will give the company money to invest in modernising the Tube system.

The strike has been called by RMT and TSSA, both transport workers unions.

When reminded of his election promise by the RMT’sGeneral Secretary Bob Crow who phoned in on the Mayor’s weekly radio show on Tuesday, Mr. Johnson said that since he made the promise in 2008 there have been huge technological advances resulting in fewer and fewer people using ticket offices. “The IPhone wasn’t even invented,” he said.

The Conservative government has said that it is looking to make the London Underground service an essential service in its 2015 election manifesto.

"David Cameron should be telling the mayor to stick to his election promise to Londoners not to close ticket offices," Mr. Crow was reported as saying.

"Playing politics with a dispute that is simply about jobs, safety and services gets us nowhere at a time when talks are the only way forwards," he said.

The Unions have called for another 48 hour strike next week.

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