Tube Strike and the Walk to Work


Two days after the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 tube bombings, and about two months before the planned start of all-night tube services on Fridays and Saturdays (“The Night Tube”), unions are staging a 24+hour strike that started to disrupt services during the Wednesday PM rush hour and led to no tube service at all on Thursday. This is the first strike to completely close the London Underground network since 2002 (although there have been plenty of quite disruptive partial closures due to so-called “industrial action” in our years here).

At first I thought the statement at the bottom was just a little bit ironic, but then I realized that some non-tube rail services, like the separate Docklands Light Railway and London Overground networks, were still running!

At first I thought the statement at the bottom was just a little bit ironic, but then I realized that some non-tube rail services, like the separate Docklands Light Railway and London Overground networks, were still running!

All four major unions are taking part in this strike, which is why the impact is so total. And why? Disputes over pay related to the introduction of the overnight services. Before you get too sympathetic for those poor train drivers having to work overnight, let me just remind you that the average driver salary (according to a report from the union itself!) is about $77,000 per year. Where else can you make that kind of money with no need for any special education or skills, and with excellent benefits (some reports suggest that they get around 50 days off per year)? The offer on the table is for a 2% raise along with a £2500 one-time bonus for those drivers on lines that will operate overnight. Plus, they are hiring 137 additional drivers to support the extra service, which means more jobs for the unions (isn’t that what they should want?). I can’t see how the public can really be on the unions’ side, given the massive disruption and real cost to the city as well as the terms of the deal and the fact that they don’t seem to be getting much of a message out there.  I really think such strikes should be illegal here like they are in New York!

Anyway, I was originally going to work from home to avoid the mess, but after some stern words from my employer insisting on relatively broadly defined “reasonable effort” to make it in, I decided to walk. I am in better shape than many others, as we live only a little more than 3 miles as the crow flies – but when walking that along streets and through the park that inflates to about 4.25 miles.

The straight line distance from home to work is only about 3.14 miles...but it typically takes at least 35 minutes on a normal day walking 5-10 minutes at each end and using one or two tube lines.

The straight line distance from home to work is only about 3.14 miles…but it typically takes at least 35 minutes on a normal day walking 5-10 minutes at each end and using one or two tube lines.

Here was my walking route this morning - one of the best things about London is the fact I could walk a different way each time and see new and interesting things, all while getting there and all being safe!

Here was my walking route this morning – one of the best things about London is the fact I could walk a different way each time and see new and interesting things, all while getting there and all being safe. I thought I was cutting a good diagonal across the park but ended up way too far east…but of course it isn’t so easy to get across the Serpentine in the middle!

Last night the strike was supposed to start at 6 or 630 pm, so they advised everyone to complete their journeys by 6pm. I had a late meeting and was in the office until about 630pm, but decided to still give the tube a shot. It was amazing – best commute home ever! Peak service levels were still running, but there were hardly any passengers! I should have gotten some pictures of the empty trains, but didn’t. By the time I exited at home at King’s Cross around 7pm they were starting to ramp down some services – the Metropolitan Line seemed to be the first to go, not surprisingly as it has the longest reach outside of London and also tends to be the most unionist stalwart (senior drivers seem to prefer this route because it is relatively long, has fewer passengers, and mostly outdoors in the countryside!).

To try to keep the city moving, Transport for London has mobilized about 200 extra buses – not a huge number compared to the approximately 8000 buses on the street each day, but targeted can be helpful – as well as additional Thames riverboat services. The key issue is that most* of the suburban rail services are still operating, leading to large volumes of passengers needing to travel from terminals to their final destinations (*there is a separate strike on First Great Western, the operator serving Paddington, due to concerns over reduced on-board train staff on the new long-distance trains that will be introduced in the next couple of years).

As I walked past Euston Station at 7:30 this morning, there were already big queues waiting for buses to take people onward to their destinations in the city...

As I walked past Euston Station at 7:30 this morning, there were already big queues waiting for buses to take people onward to their destinations in the city…

In addition to some non-red buses (gasp!), TfL also pressed some old Routemasters into use - here is one operating on the 205 route which runs parallel to the original 1863 tube line serving Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, King's Cross St. Pancras, and near Liverpool Street railway terminals.

In addition to some non-red buses (gasp!), TfL also pressed some old Routemasters into use – here is one operating on the 205 route which runs parallel to the original 1863 tube line serving Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, King’s Cross St. Pancras, and near Liverpool Street railway terminals.

After the long walk this morning I don’t think I’ll want to do that again tonight, but I have a work social event after work and I should be able to get a bus or use the operating Overground service to get home later in the evening. The real question, I suppose, is whether there will be additional strikes over this issue and how the dispute gets resolved (and whether it impacts the start of the night tube services in September or not!).

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Posted on 09/07/2015, in Logistics, Silly British Things, Transit, Within London and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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