London’s Tube workers, including 10,000 subway drivers, station workers and engineers, are on strike as Transport for London (TfL) prepares to lay off 800 of 19,000 London Underground staff. Most of the cut positions are those of ticket office staff and about 150 come from reductions in management and administrative positions
Since September 6, London commuters have had to get to work in the absence of 10,000 Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) staff.
Given skeletal service on the Tube for Monday and Tuesday (at the time this post was written, 40 percent of trains were running and some stations and lines were suspended), TfL is encouraging the city’s 3.5 million Tube commuters to get to their destinations in creative ways — without using the rail system. However, even with the temporary measures, commuters face delays.
TfL is running escorted bike rides that will meet at several locations throughout the city in the morning. Cycle parking facilities are easier for new bikers to access, and TFL contractors will ensure that Barclays Cycle Hire bikes, London’s newly launched bike sharing scheme, are efficiently redistributed after use. TfL has even gone so far as to write to “hundreds of businesses across London to ask them to be flexible and make it easy for staff to cycle to work, and to allow staff to wear casual clothes” on the days of the strike.
What’s more, a 500-berth boat, run by London River Services, will carry 10,000 more people than usual along the Thames River. Volunteers are working at city stations with maps and other information on hand.
The strike is part of dialogue across Europe about the balance between state spending and public services. But this week’s strike is also an opportunity to bring other, less expensive and infrastructure-heavy forms of transit into the mainstream. Ultimately, the strike is forcing Londoners and commuters to consider alternatives to the car and the Tube. Two more strikes will occur in October and November if talks between unions and the government agency fail.