London Travel May Ease as Subway Commuters Brave WalkoutKari Lundgren
Londoners who rely on the city’s subway network to get to work saw disruption from a 48-hour strike ease today, with a return to operations on all of the network’s 11 lines encouraging more daily users to travel.
Close to 90 percent of regular swipe-card holders rode the Tube yesterday on the first day of the walkout, and London Underground said it’s aiming to boost numbers further before the strike over jobs and ticket-office closures ends tonight.
“With more staff arriving for work than during the last strike in February, we were able to run 50 percent of the train service and keep two-thirds of stations open,” said Mike Brown, the company’s managing director. “Things have already got better today, with nearly three-quarters of stations open. We are working really hard to further improve this.”
The Waterloo & City line was open this morning for the first time since the strike began at 9 p.m. Monday, restoring a key link between Britain’s busiest surface rail station and the main financial district during the rush hour before closing for the midday lull. At the same time, traffic clogged roads and pavements were crowded as a 1 1/2 hour delay in the first trains until after 7 a.m. pushed some people to make other plans.
“It’s still possible to get to work, but most people I know have had to change their usual plan and you wouldn’t want to have to do it every day,” said Robert Swift, 46, a shop manager who had traveled on the Northern Line to Moorgate station in the City from his home in south London.
Transport for London, which manages the subway on behalf of Mayor Boris Johnson, stopped short of claiming victory in the strike, saying that while the city “is working and open for business,” conditions for its customers have been “tough” and that the union leaders should return to talks.
The Tube, which has 270 stations, handles more than 3 million journeys a day, with 57,000 people using Waterloo, the busiest subway station, in the three-hour morning peak.
Today’s strike over job cuts and ticket office closures comes after the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union halted the second of two February walkouts following an offer of talks that failed to produce an agreement.
Both the Circle and Waterloo & City lines, which were closed all or part of the day yesterday, are running modified services today. The Northern Line, the Tube’s busiest, has a “good service,” TfL said on its website.
The Central Line is running at its western and eastern ends but not through the center of the city, while the Jubilee, Metropolitan, Victoria, District, Hammersmith & City and Piccadilly lines are operating reduced services.
Almost 8,000 buses are on London’s streets, a record, and demand for 10,000 rental bicycles surged 50 percent across the whole day yesterday. Traffic tailed back for about 2.5 miles at the Rotherhithe Tunnel beneath the Thames at 7:15 a.m. today.
Mayor Johson called the RMT’s walkout “pointless,” and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said the level of disruption was “unacceptable.”
No job cuts will be compulsory and wages won’t be reduced, London Underground’s Brown has said. The employer has held more than 40 meetings with unions to discuss changes it says are vital to modernize the world’s oldest subway, dating from 1863.
The strike aims to stop “savage, cash-led attacks on jobs, services and safety,” according to the RMT, which is also calling for a 72-hour walkout starting on May 5.
The two days of disruption in February cost about 600 million pounds ($1 billion), the Federation of Small Businesses said yesterday.