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London subway plans to run 24 hours

London, Nov. 22: The London Underground is facing one of the most drastic overhauls in its 150-year history.

Starting in 2015, its trains will start running throughout the night, and most of its ticket offices will be replaced by upgraded machines or turnstiles that accept contactless bank cards as part of a plan meant to bring the world’s oldest subway system “into the 21st century”.

The announcement yesterday brought mixed reactions. In a capital that prides itself on its theatre scene and night life, the prospect of 24-hour train service has been one of the most popular campaign pledges of Mayor Boris Johnson.

But at a time of sluggish economic growth, declining real wages and austerity policies, the planned closing of ticket offices, which will cost about 750 Underground workers their jobs, has angered transport unions. Some warned that it could prompt the first major strikes in four years.

Bob Crow, the general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, or RMT, which represents many of those who would be affected by the layoffs, said the union would “fight these plans with every tool at our disposal”.

If the London Underground management does not “wake up and see sense, that means, inevitably, industrial action across the entire network”, he added.

Transport for London, the city’s transport authority, has not been spared from budget cuts. It needs to find about 78 million, or $126 million, this year and next. Closing the ticket offices will amount to roughly 50 million, or $80 million, in savings a year.

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