“Worst Tube strikes yet say commuters as walkouts cripple London” was the headline in today’s London Evening Standard. Commuters struggling to get to work were today caught in a war of words over the third 24-hour Tube strike in as many months. All 11 lines suffered major disruption, 80 stations were closed and 100 stations were picketed in a row with the RMT and TSSA unions over job cuts and ticket office closures. Union bosses and angry passengers claimed the service was “far worse” than during the two previous strikes. At Marylebone Station this morning the lack of alternatives to The Tube were evident. The “Marshall” at the taxi rank had added to the confusion by reversing the direction of flow of the queue but this didn’t really matter. As with the last strikes there were hardly any taxis at the ranks as the “City Boys” block book them as these titans of Casino Banking are more important to London than people who do real stuff. No sign of the extra buses either, rather the opposite as road works made the traffic in the area impossible. A 205 bus to Bow in East London turned up from Paddington already full and no sign of the No. 2 bus to Victoria.
Commuters struggling home this evening were warned to expect another Tube strike on November 29 and then a series of stoppages after Christmas. Union bosses said walkouts in January could be announced after a “truce” next month. Tens of thousands of passengers suffered today as the third 24-hour strike in as many months caused disruption across the network. All 11 lines suffered major problems or were suspended, 80 stations were closed and 100 stations were picketed in a row with the RMT and TSSA unions over job cuts and ticket office closures.
The Standard quoted commuters urging Boris Johnson to tell Tube workers “enough is enough”. A commuter from Richmond was quoted as saying said: “The strikes are obviously getting worse. I have to get a taxi instead.” A spokesman for the RMT said there was “no question” disruption was worse than the last strikes with leader Bob Crow saying: “Today’s action is rock solid the length and breadth of the system.”
London Underground insisted it had more trains running and more stations open than before. Managing director Mike Brown said: “Despite the deluded claims by the RMT and TSSA leaderships the Tube service this morning is moving hundreds of thousands of people across London. Over 40% of our services are running, with all but one line being served and that is the Circle line, where almost every station is served by other lines. 75% of stations are being served, and we are keeping London moving.” LU said 50 trains were operating on the Northern compared with 29 last time. But a third of the line’s 33 stations were closed because there were no staff to operate them, meaning that even though trains were running, commuters could not get onto the platforms to catch them.
Among the Tube stations closed during today were Charing Cross, Westminster, Piccadilly Circus and Knightsbridge as well as Heathrow Terminal 4. The Mayor came under renewed fire for not personally meeting the RMT and TSSA unions. A fourth walk-out is planned for November 29 and with no resolution to the dispute in sight passengers were warned of more strikes in the run-up to Christmas. London Underground said at the height of the morning peak period it was operating 44 per cent of services compared with 28 per cent last time.
Lines were either suspended over part of the route or ran with massive delays and cancellations. The Circle line will be suspended throughout the day and there was no service on the Waterloo and City lines for an essential part of the morning peak. Roger, travelling through Victoria, said: “It was terrible down there. It’s the queuing to get into the station that’s really bad. Some of the lines are totally crippled. People just have to get on with it as best they can.”
Gary, an IT trainer from Kent, said: “I can see these strikes going on for some time because their positions are fairly entrenched and it is difficult to see how a speedy resolution will be arrived at.” Mr Crow insisted that the strike was over “safe Tube staffing levels as our members send out the clearest possible message to the Mayor to call a halt to cuts before there’s a major disaster”.
The conciliation service ACAS announced that fresh talks will be held tomorrow. The unions are protesting at plans to axe 800 mainly ticket office jobs, although they claim the number is set to rise to almost 2,000. TfL deny that safety is being compromised and insist there will be no enforced redundancies. While commuters in London had well practised strike routines, tourists to the city found their plans thrown into disarray.
Stefan from Berlin said: “It’s a nightmare for people visiting London.” However the cutbacks in Underground are regarded as the thin end of a pointed political wedge to cutback the Underground which includes further redundancy, centralisation of HR, Finance and IT within the TfL organisation and selling off 55, Broadway, London Underground’s iconic and fully paid for Head Office (Estates Gazette February 14th 2009).
Whereas London Underground is being told to cut its cloth according to a recent BBC article on pay and bonuses TfL is very much committed to Rolls-Royce solutions with some employees on large salaries getting half as much again as bonuses.
Having explicitly committed to no ticket office closures in his Mayoral election manifesto Mayor Boris Johnson is now hoisted on his own petard, so being Boris you then make noise about something nay anything and wave your arms frantically! So now Boris is on the news banging on about banning strikes where less than 50% of union members vote. This could also be an awkward argument for BoJo as such a “turnout threshold” would have prevented his own election on the back of just 19% of London voters.
And the only reason he is talking about one now is to cover for his total inaction in getting the promised “no strike deal” with the unions. So as you mull that one over on your journey home tonight here’s a few other statistics from the “Tory Troll” Blog to think about:
Boris Johnson’s meetings since 2008:
Rupert Murdoch: 1
Rebekah Wade, The Sun: 2
Lord Rothermere, Daily Mail: 1
Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan: 1
Lily Allen: 1
Kelly Brook: 2
Tube Union leaders: 0