Thu, Feb 06, 2014 - Page 7 News List

London struggles to cope with Tube strike

Bloomberg

A two-day strike by London Underground employees over job cuts and closures caused travel chaos in London as stations remained closed and buses struggled to cope with the extra demand.

Limited service on the Tube that carries on average more than 3.3 million passengers per day commenced later than normal with more than 40 stations across the system remaining shut all day, Transport for London said on its Web site. Buses filled quickly, leaving some passengers stranded.

Tube unions called the strike over London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to close ticket outlets and scrap more than 750 jobs, spurred by the introduction of Oyster travel cards that automatically open gates after being charged with credit. Labor leaders say that while less than 3 percent of journeys now involve a visit to a booth, staffing stations is vital to guaranteeing public safety.

“The action is rock solid this morning and has reduced the network to a skeleton service with only a few ghost trains running through closed stations,” Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime & Transport union, said in a release.

London Underground workers were instructed by their unions not to show up for shifts between 9pm on Tuesday and 8:59pm today. Transport for London, which oversees the Tube, said it was likely trains would be disrupted until tomorrow, and that though some trains may run, many stations will probably be shuttered.

Crow and Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, went to City Hall yesterday morning to seek face-to-face negotiations, but were declined a meeting with the mayor, union spokesman Geoff Martin said by e-mail.

Johnson’s office said the mayor would engage in a dialog only if the walkout were called off first.

Under Johnson’s plans, which also involve introduction of 24-hour services on some Underground lines at the weekend from next year, ticket offices would be retained only at five central London Tube stations and at Heathrow airport. Unions are also concerned that a project examining the viability of driverless trains could lead to the elimination of many more posts.

Transport for London said on Nov. 21 last year that more staff will be based on platforms and concourses in the future, some equipped with tablet computers to help monitor and manage stations while on the move. It added that all stations will be manned while trains are running, though they would be reclassified as Gateway, Destination, Metro or Local to reflect staffing needs.

The union said on Dec. 3 that a combination of 24-hour running with the redeployment plan could see drunk people “piling into unstaffed stations controlled by a member of staff three stops down the line with an iPad.”

The union said on Jan. 10 that 77 percent of members who took part in a ballot had voted to strike. A further two-day walkout is scheduled for Tuesday evening.

London’s subway network carries more than 1.2 billion people annually, with 57,000 passengers entering the city’s busiest station at Waterloo during the three-hour morning peak. The service employs about 19,000 people and has 270 stations, according to Transport for London.

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