Travel chaos as tube strike hits capital

The tube strike lead to closed stations across London including Canary Wharf Station.

Canary Wharf closed to passengers. Pic: Katriona Thompson

Thousands of commuters faced travel chaos as a strike by tube workers caused major disruption across the Underground network. The 24-hour industrial action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), which started at 6pm, Sunday 8 January, was called due to a dispute over jobs and pay.

At least 80 of London’s 270 Underground stations were listed as closed on the TfL website. 7 out of Tower Hamlet’s 9 tube stations were confirmed as shut, including financial hub Canary Wharf.

Twitter user @aviewfromlondon tweeted a video of extraordinary bus queues outside Mile End Station. A crowd of people can be seen stretching over 300 metres  on both sides of the pavement as a lone 25 bus pulls in.

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North in Essex tweeted about heavy traffic at the Bow flyover as a result of the strike. Soon after he tweeted that he’d found “Salvation!” in the form of a river ferry.

In a statement on the RMT website, General Secretary Mick Cash said the strike action was “a fight for jobs and safety.” TfL said in its own press release that strike action was part of “a historic dispute” between the unions and TfL over the closure of ticket offices in Underground stations.

Mayor Sadiq Khan called the industrial action “pointless” and called on the unions to cancel the strike and “get back round the negotiating table”.  He argued that the dispute began during Boris Johnson’s tenure as previous Mayor of London and that great progress made since meant the strike was unnecessary.

Mick Cash said union members would not stand by as the government made what he called “savage cuts”. He said the RMT did not want to see London Underground stations become an “under-staffed death trap”.

Sadiq Khan praised TfL staff on Twitter for managing to keep “67% of stations open” but the RMT criticised TfL for under-reporting the extent of the closures. It said TfL was “peddling dangerous lies” that could lead to a dangerous crush.

Commuters caught up by the strike were forced to find alternative routes to work, putting a great strain on London’s other transport networks. Buses, Santander cycles, Overground services, taxis and even river ferries all saw a huge increase in usage as commuters struggled to get around the capital.

Uber came in for harsh words from one of the unions involved, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), for ‘rip off fares’  with some drivers charging over four times the normal rate for journeys during the tube strike.

Sadiq Khan faced criticism too  from commuters over an election pledge that promised zero strike days for the capital if won last May’s election.

Monday’s tube strike added further misery to South East London’s commuters. Additional industrial action by the RMT over a dispute with Southern Rail has been affecting commuter routes throughout December and will continue into January.

You can follow Luke Radcliff on Twitter.

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