Well folks, “industrial action” is upon us here in London – a “strike by…union members is affecting Tube services.” Yeah, I’d say so!
I’ll tell you how to read this; basically, the only line operating as normal is the Northern Line, which is in fact the line with the most total ridership, so that’s something good. The two at the bottom – DLR and Overground – are not technically part of the “Tube” and so are not affected by the strike.
Why is this happening? Of course, these things are usually fairly complicated – and one would hope so, given the impact something like this has – but, basically, London Underground is planning to eliminate 800 jobs staffing ticket windows, and the union is quite unhappy about it, claiming that it will compromise security for passengers. However, London Underground has pledged that all stations would still have some staff (such as those patrolling the ticket barriers, even if the ticket windows themselves are unstaffed) and that there would be no compulsory redundancies (British for layoffs).
My two pence? In a time of intense budgetary pressures, this is a necessary measure, and one that is well-designed to have limited impact. In fact, the number of ticket-window transactions has been declining (just like “token” booth ones in NYC) due to the availability of ticket machines and online payments for the Oyster smartcard. Certainly, it is much much better to do things like this than to have to, say, reduce service. I’m sorry for those losing their jobs, but apparently they will be reassigned (or the positions will just be cut through attrition), so there seems to be nothing to complain about. I’ll also say that, if a few did have to be layed off, that is certainly sad but not the end of the world – just ask their very many private-sector counterparts who have faced similar fates.
In a weird way, this situation is a gold mine for me, because I’m working on a case study about how metros (US English: subway systems!) inform customers during service disruptions, so I’ll be out observing and grabbing as many good photos as possible. Good luck to anyone trying to get around – Astrid and I are going to make our way to the Northern Line, which is only a 10-minute bus ride from our flat, to get her to Liverpool Street for the train to her office (buses and trains – meaning suburban and intercity trains – are not affected by the strike).