Tube strike makes it manic Monday for Londoners

London, Jan 9 (IANS) A strike by London Underground workers on Monday left millions of commuters facing massive disruption and having to endure journeys on grid-locked roads, with most tube stations closed and crowded rail and bus services elsewhere in the capital, the media reported.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was running a limited service on eight of its 11 tube lines on Monday and would open 60 per cent of its stations across the network, the Guardian reported.

The 24-hour tube strike started at 6 p.m. (local time) on Sunday but was expected to cripple services until the end of Monday.

The unions accused TfL of “dangerously exaggerating” the level of service available, leading people to expect to travel and causing overcrowding at stations.

Commuters used cars, boats, bicycles and over-crowded buses to cope with a 24-hour walkout by underground station staff that left the majority of “Tube” stops closed and no services operating from mainline stations such as Victoria, Kings Cross and Waterloo.

Clapham Junction, the country’s busiest interchange on a normal day, was evacuated after the “worst overcrowding seen for many years” — leaving thousands on the streets, said the report.

Many more people were seen walking as heavy traffic blocked major roads. There were long queues reported for buses and taxis.

Station staff in the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ (RMT) union and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) union walked out after last-minute talks aimed at limiting the impact of the industrial action ended unsuccessfully on Sunday.

The strike is part of a continuing row over the impact of ticket office closures and 900 posts being cut as part of TfL’s “modernisation” plans which were brought in under previous Mayor Boris Johnson.

Although TfL has admitted that too many jobs were cut, unions say that its offer to replace 200 of the posts did not go far enough.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had campaigned on a pledge to end strikes by talking to the unions, said he had significantly reduced the number of days lost to industrial action.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “I think strikes ultimately are a sign of failure. This strike is completely unnecessary. All strikes can be called off and averted if reasonable minds resolve things amicably.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said that while hiring more staff was a step in the right direction, “200 jobs cannot plug the gaping hole that’s been left in the system by devastating Tory attacks on TfL’s budget”.

Monday’s walkout on the Tube, which carries up to 4.8 million passengers a day, begins a week of industrial action which will hit rail and air passengers, and there are warnings the problems could spread across the country.

Train drivers on Southern Rail are striking on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, bringing all rail services used by hundreds of thousands of passengers from the south coast and Gatwick Airport to London to a halt.

–IANS

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