London’s umpteenth 24-hour walkout by members of the National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is being touted as the tube strike to end all tube strikes with all stations in zone 1 closed. It is the first day back at work for many of the city’s legion of commuters in 2017 and with another walkout by British Airways staff it has been described as the perfect storm of travel chaos and misery.
Commuters advised to walk
But the best way to beat the strike? Travel on two feet and whilst at it enjoy some of London’s landmarks, quiet backstreets, parks, alleyways, mews cut throughs and meandering shortcuts. Transport for London (TfL) has issued a walking map of London which displays walking times alongside some of the city’s central landmarks and transport hubs. There are also up-to-date travel alerts and Tube lines status on the TfL website.
The city with its notoriously narrow streets is surprisingly one of Europe’s most easily navigable on foot with its network of parks and waterways providing an escape for the intrepid explorer. A trek from Notting Hill to Oxford Street can be completed in under an hour. Yet many would rather swelter on packed tube carriages or add to the city’s worsening traffic jams by driving.
Apart from walking, other ways to dodge the lengthy bus queues are through cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, jogging, but beware of hundreds of commuters who will be high on endorphins. At least it will be an easy way to keep those New Year resolutions going for longer.
Is London really open?
Mayor Sadiq Khan’s #LondonIsOpen campaign will have been dealt a huge blow with this latest walkout by members of the RMT and TSSA after his failed last-ditch attempt at mediation. There is nothing that screams we really don’t care about tourists than picket lines and closed signs at the city’s major transport hubs. The authorities had at least managed to run skeletal train schedules on the underground during earlier disputes.
Disgruntled tube staff have claimed the root cause of the industrial action are unmanned stations, closure of tube ticket offices, reduction in staff numbers and unfavourable roster patterns. Strangely, the same elements tourist-friendly cities would think twice about tinkering with. The mayor faces a testy week as he delivers a keynote address about the state of London on Thursday [January 11]. The city faces tough times ahead in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union and is expected to bear the brunt of the fallout from the protracted process to formalise the exit.
Who’s to blame?
London’s transport dispute has rumbled through three mayoralties with no sign of an imminent solution. It almost mirrors the city’s other inescapable quality of life problems; lack of affordable housing, pollution, gridlocked roads, the gig economy and expensive childcare. But of all the nagging issues, a tube strike has the most power to force it to its knees like no other. The authorities and unions go through the same motions followed by the inevitable commuter bedlam. See you at the next strike many are already predicting.
- About 4,000 station and ticket staff estimated to walk out in the dispute over job losses and ticket office closures
- RMT and TSSA unions claim dispute with London Underground centred on staffing and passenger safety
- 838 jobs have been axed and ticket offices closed under previous mayor Boris Johnson
- Unions say control rooms, which oversee passenger safety and help respond to emergency incidents, have been de-staffed
- Union bosses claim London Underground is only offering to reinstate 150 jobs, but TfL says 600 staff will be recruited for stations this year