Is London Crippled by Tube Strikes?

Or do Londoners just grin and bear it

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Hundreds of thousands of commuters have been affected, in the last three months, by tube strikes across the capital.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) have called one strike a month over safety issues, concerning reducing staff at ticket offices.

Transport for London (TfL) have said that due to the success of the Oyster card just one journey in 20 involves the ticket office and some offices sell less than 10 tickets an hour.

During the second strike a TfL spokesman said: “75% of stations are open, 220 trains out of the usual fleet of 525 are running - over 40%.”

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: “Services are operating on virtually all lines this morning despite the pointless strike.

“We are doing everything we can to get as many Tube services as possible operating, and to keep Londoners on the move with extra buses, river services, and other alternatives. Londoners will face some disruption, but we intend to continue to run services on nearly all Tube lines, meaning that people will be able to get around."

The RMT are saying that this is not the case and that support is strong in the union and from the public. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Transport for London and LU have been reduced to their usual well-rehearsed lies about services they claim to be running. But it is pure fantasy and simply misleading Londoners - the capital city was locked down yesterday morning across the board.”

Mr Crow is also considering crippling London again by striking in the New Year.

He said: “We are moving towards an escalation of the action. “I don't think it will be appropriate to have action over Christmas. “I will not be recommending any action this side of January 2, but come 2011 we will have to consider escalating strikes to more than one day.”

Speaking as someone who travels from Ealing to Wimbledon most weekdays the strikes have tended to add at least an hour to my journey time, not to mention very crowded trains. On a strike day I have found I have to allow an extra hour to get in on time as I have to take the 65 bus down to Kew Bridge/Richmond.

During the second strike in October I saw an unfortunate incident on the 65 bus at St Mary’s Church. A mother and daughter had got off the bus and the mother was having difficulty retrieving her bicycle but the bus driver drove off leaving the young daughter in tears.

This week the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) have called for a tube strike over Boxing Day pay. ASLEF want triple pay and a day in lieu of holiday.
ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman said: “It is painfully obvious to any reasonable person that Boxing Day is not an ordinary working day and therefore it is no surprise that ASLEF members have reacted in the way they have.”

A TfL spokesman said: “It is disgraceful that ASLEF should try to hold Londoners and London Underground to ransom in this way. London Underground has made every effort to resolve this issue with the ASLEF leadership, which has refused to attend talks at ACAS to discuss its claim for triple time and a day in lieu for its members.”

Boxing Day is the first day of shopping for some; while for others there is a full football programme that day, big freeze permitting.

Other commuters have been similarly affected by these strikes.

Angry commuter, Charles Perrin said: I am very annoyed as I am supposed to be working on Boxing Day and am a regular commuter myself. “I have never experienced anything like this in all my time on the tubes. Bob Crow does not do any favours.

“We the taxpayer have invested so much money over the years on the tube - there has always been engineering works on the weekend and we have quite honestly been shortchanged. The blame partly lies with Ken Livingstone, but then Boris Johnson has been Mayor for some of the time that the tube has had its problems.

“I am fed up of the tube chaos - with the weather as it currently is - it is not feasible to drive.”

There have been concerns that these strikes will spread to National Rail affecting millions of commuters coming in from outside London.

Southeastern trains are planning strike action with the RMT balloting members. A South West Trains employee, and member of the RMT, who does not wish to be named said: “Drivers, guards and signal men are main strikers, and I haven't heard of anything lately.”

“SWT tend to avoid strike action, but if involving drivers they don’t normally suffer a complete disruption as the company have back up drivers. “Strikes don’t generate public support really. Some agree for certain reasons, but most think that the 3 departments above think they're untouchable and can request what they like as the company can’t run without them.

“Well, they are right but then some of the reasons are sometimes not put into public domain, health and safety of staff is one.

“I agree with strikes for the right reasons. I mean, if it's wages then I think it is pathetic. They really should meet in the middle rather than demand stupid amounts. Health and Safety can be misleading to the public. Hours are another one. They work 35 hour weeks. A Waterloo to Reading train (and back) is 3 hrs and 10 minutes including waiting time at Reading which is under 10 return trips a week."

“They have to be alert all the time for any potential dangers in and out of stations... and also are in charge of several hundred or near thousands a day.”

Tom Moore

September 7, 2010