Londoners and tourists are competing for bus seats and rental bicycles thanks to a subway strike
The action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union members over job cuts and ticket-office closures began at 9 p.m. Monday and will continue through Wednesday evening, with a further 72-hour walkout planned next week.
London Underground, which runs the Tube, as the network is known, kept most lines running with a reduced service, and many stations flagged as likely to close were open for travel. Almost 90 percent of regular travel card users journeyed on the network today, Transport for London said. At the same time roads were snarled with traffic and pavements were more crowded as some regular subway travelers made alternative plans.
“The action has gone ahead and is solidly supported,” Mick Cash, the RMT’s acting general secretary, said in a statement, adding that the strike would have been suspended had London Underground “responded positively to our proposal to halt the ticket office closures and job cuts.”
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The Tube handles more than 3 million journeys a day, with 57,000 people using Waterloo station alone in the three-hour morning peak, according to Transport for London, the transit agency which has details on service cuts because of the strike. The strike comes after the RMT halted the second of two February walkouts following an offer of talks that failed to produce an agreement.
Many passengers at London’s Heathrow airport, the busiest in Europe, avoided the Tube by traveling by black cab, while private taxi operator Addison Lee reported surging demand.
The Circle line began operating limited services halfway through the day, ensuring that trains ran on 10 of 11 Tube routes. The Waterloo & City line was suspended all day. Crowds were thickest at pinch points such as Earls Court, west London.
Commuters avoiding the subway squashed onto surface trains, which ran as normal, while a record 7,961 buses were operating, 266 more than usual, including 40 of the traditional London Routemasters previously taken out of service, according to TfL.
Demand for the 10,000 cycles available for short-term hire on streets across the capital jumped over 70 percent Tuesday morning.