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Londoners cram buses as Tube strike begins

 The bicycle-sharing operation at London’s Waterloo stop drew additional customers during Tuesday’s strike by subway workers protesting plans to close ticket offices.

AP

The bicycle-sharing operation at London’s Waterloo stop drew additional customers during Tuesday’s strike by subway workers protesting plans to close ticket offices.

LONDON — Londoners struggled to get to work as a 48-hour subway strike led to cancellations and delays that pushed commuters to compete for bus seats and rental bikes.

The walkout called by the Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers union over job cuts and ticket-office closures began at 9 p.m. Monday and is slated to continue through Wednesday evening, with a 72-hour walkout planned for next week.

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London Underground, which runs the Tube, as the network is known, kept most lines running at reduced service levels, and many stations flagged as likely to close were open for travel. At the same time, roads were snarled with traffic and pavements more crowded than usual as regular subway travelers made alternative plans.

‘‘The action has gone ahead and is solidly supported,’’ Mick Cash, the union’s acting general secretary, said in a statement, adding that the strike would have been suspended had London Underground ‘‘responded positively to our proposal to halt the ticket office closures and job cuts.’’

The Tube handles more than 3 million journeys a day, with 57,000 people using the Waterloo station alone during the three-hour morning peak, according to Transport for London, the city’s transit agency. The current strike was called after the union halted the second of two February walkouts in response to an offer of talks, but no agreement was reached.

Trains ran on nine of 11 Tube routes Tuesday morning, with the Circle and Waterloo & City lines shut, transit agency officials said.

Commuters avoiding the subway squeezed onto surface trains, which ran as normal, while a record 7,961 buses were operating, 266 more than usual, including 40 vehicles previously taken out of service, Transport for London said.

Many passengers at London’s Heathrow Airport, the busiest in Europe, avoided the Tube by traveling by cab, while private taxi operator Addison Lee reported surging demand.

Demand for the 10,000 bicycles available for hire across the capital rose more than 50 percent during the February strike, and some users struggled to find open docking stations Tuesday.

‘‘That’s the huge problem,’’ said Thomas Zhu, a consultant at Ernst & Young LLP who had switched to pedal power from his usual commute on the Tube’s Northern Line.

While Zhu said he’s sympathetic toward striking workers seeking to save employment, Mayor Boris Johnson of London called the walkout ‘‘pointless,’’ and Prime Minister David Cameron said the level of disruption was ‘‘unacceptable.’’

No job cuts will be compulsory and wages will not be reduced, according to Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground.

The strike aims to stop ‘‘savage, cash-led attacks on jobs, services and safety,’’ the RMT union said.

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