January 1, 2006

Londoners defy transport strike to hail New Year

LONDON (Reuters) - New Year revelers ignored a threatened
strike on London's underground rail network and thronged the
capital's streets to celebrate the arrival of 2006.

An estimated 200,000 people crowded into central London on
Saturday night, police said, 50,000 more than the year before,
after a 24-hour strike by the RMT union failed to shut more
than a handful of underground stations.

At midnight, crowds cheered a 10-minute firework display
launched from the London Eye wheel on the south bank of the
River Thames.

London Underground said only 31 of its 275 stations were
closed by the strike of station staff, which left trains
running on all lines on the network, also known as the Tube.

There had been fears the strike would stop people coming
into the center of the capital for the New Year celebrations.

"The Tube strike hardly materialized," said London Mayor
Ken Livingstone.

"The majority of London Underground staff did not agree
that it made sense to punish ordinary Londoners on New Year's

The RMT union called the strike over the introduction of
new work rosters which it says will reduce safety levels on the

London Underground denies the rotas were unsafe and says
there will be no reduction in station staffing.

On Sunday, London continued its celebration of the New Year
with a parade through the center of the capital featuring
10,000 performers from around the world.