Lon­don Tube 2nd strike causes ma­jor dis­rup­tion

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY ALICE RITCHIE

Mil­lions of Lon­don­ers were forced to walk, cy­cle or take packed buses to and from work Thurs­day as Lon­don Un­der­ground staff staged their sec­ond strike in a month over plans to run trains all night

Lon­don Un­der­ground staff walked out on Wed­nes­day evening and will not re­turn un­til Fri­day morn­ing, caus­ing a shut­down of the world’s old­est sub­way net­work and se­verely dis­rupt­ing trans­port in the cap­i­tal.

Four trade unions are locked in a months-long dis­pute with man­age­ment over Lon­don Mayor Boris John­son’s plans to run a 24-hour Tube ser­vice on Fri­days and Satur­days from Sept. 12.

An ex­tra 250 buses, ad­di­tional rental bikes and in­creased river boat ser­vices were laid on to help ease the dis­rup­tion, while over­ground trains were op­er­at­ing as nor­mal.

But the Tube han­dles 4 mil­lion jour­neys ev­ery day, mean­ing many trains and buses were over­crowded Thurs­day.

Many of those who de­cided to drive into work found them­selves in one of the hun­dreds of traf­fic jams recorded, with roads also clogged with cy­clists and pave­ments filled with pedes­tri­ans who de­cided it was quick­est to walk.

At the peak of rush hour there were 800 kilo­me­ters (500 miles) of tail backs in and around the Bri­tish cap­i­tal, ac­cord­ing to nav­i­ga­tion com­pany Tom Tom.

It is the sec­ond time the ser­vice has shut down in a month, af­ter a sim­i­lar strike on July 8 and 9 caused the first net­work-wide clo­sure for 13 years.

While some com­muters railed against the unions and their mem­bers, many of whom are paid well above the av­er­age wage, most were re­signed.

“I took the bus, it was re­ally crowded and took 45 min­utes in­stead of 20 min­utes,” Amal, a 21-year-old ac­coun­tant, told AFP in the City of Lon­don fi­nan­cial dis­trict.

Ta­mara, a 43-year-old Ger­man tourist vis­it­ing Lon­don with her hus­band and two chil­dren, added: “We didn’t know about the strike. So to­day we only walk!”

Many work­ers were ex­pected to work from home, and oth­ers tried to see the pos­i­tive side.

“Mak­ing the most of the Tube strike by run­ning into work to­day!” blog­ger Han­nah Cox said on Twit­ter.

At the Vic­to­ria rail­way ter­mi­nus, where huge lines of com­muters formed wait­ing for buses, one en­ter­pris­ing com­pany handed out free skate­boards.

De­layed Night Tube Launch?

The latest round of ne­go­ti­a­tions broke down on Mon­day, when union lead­ers re­jected an of­fer of a 2 per­cent salary in­crease and bonus pay­ments for night shift work­ers.

RMT union leader Mick Cash said it was “just a re­hash of an ear­lier pack­age and does noth­ing to tackle the fun­da­men­tal is­sue of our mem­bers be­ing called into work at the beck and call of man­age­ment to plug staffing gaps in the mayor’s botched Night Tube plans.”

The unions have called for the launch of the ser­vice to be de­layed pend­ing fur­ther talks and are con­sid­er­ing fur­ther strike ac­tion, say­ing that the plan would dis­rupt Tube staff’s abil­ity to spend time with fam­ily at week­ends.

John­son, a mem­ber of Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s Con­ser­va­tive Party, said he is “not fussed” about ex­actly when the Night Tube starts, but said there would be no more money on the ta­ble.

“I want it start­ing in the au­tumn,” the mayor said, adding: “I am not go­ing to au­tho­rize any more money. Most peo­ple would rec­og­nize that this is a very gen­er­ous deal.”

Lon­don Un­der­ground says it is hir­ing 137 more train driv­ers and 245 new sta­tion staff to work on the Night Tube, and says that no ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees will be work­ing more hours than they do at the mo­ment.

Steve Grif­fiths, the com­pany’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, said: “We have made ev­ery ef­fort to reach agree­ment with the unions and avoid this un­nec­es­sary strike ac­tion.”

The mayor says that the new ser­vice will ben­e­fit not just revel­ers but also many night shift work­ers, in­sist­ing: “They are the work­ing peo­ple of Lon­don.”

AP

Thou­sands of bi­cy­cles are locked in a bike rack at Padding­ton Sta­tion in Lon­don, Thurs­day, Aug. 6.

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