Strike paralyses Tube network

Passengers at Paddington Station in London during a strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). PA Media.

All London Underground services were suspended on Tuesday as thousands of Tube workers staged a 24-hour strike in a bitter dispute over jobs, pensions and conditions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said its members were “solidly supporting” the industrial action, which was causing travel chaos across the capital.

Picket lines were mounted outside Tube stations, while the union called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene.

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Transport for London (TfL) urged commuters to work from home or find alternative public transport because of the strike.

Another 24-hour walkout will be held on Thursday, and there will be knock-on effects on services on Wednesday and Friday.

The union fears that spending cuts will lead to hundreds of job losses and reductions in pensions and working conditions.

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Sadiq Khan should be standing up to Tory ministers who want to needlessly attack jobs, pensions and conditions of key transport workers.

“It is this political failure that has left Tube workers with no choice but to strike this week.

“Our members have been left paying the price for a turf war between City Hall and the Government, and they are not having it – as can be seen right across London today.

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“The mayor knows the plan to attack our members’ pensions and conditions is wrong and would leave our union no choice but to take industrial action.

“However, only last week the mayor agreed to submit proposals to the Government that will result in detrimental changes to pensions.

“The mayor has to decide if he is on the side of key workers who have kept London moving during the pandemic, or Tory ministers hellbent on punishing Tube workers.

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“This dispute can be solved if the Mayor meets the reasonable demands of his own workforce.”

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on a picket line outside Oxford Street underground station in London during a strike by members of the RMT. PA Media

TfL chief operating officer Andy Lord said: “We haven’t proposed any changes to pensions or terms and conditions, and nobody has or will lose their jobs because of the proposals we have set out, so this action is completely unnecessary.

“We know our customers deserve better than this and that is why we’re urging the RMT to talk to us so we can find a resolution to this dispute and call off this action, which is threatening London’s recovery from the pandemic.”

A spokesman for Mr Khan said the strikes will cause disruption to Londoners and businesses trying to recover from two devastating years.

“It will also damage TfL’s revenues at a time when TfL is already under huge financial strain due to the pandemic.

“TfL are working to mitigate the impact of the strikes but disruption is inevitable.

“The mayor urges Londoners who need to travel on 1 and 3 March to check before they make their journey, consider whether they are able to work from home, and use alternative modes of transport where possible.

“Sadiq doesn’t want to see strike action and is imploring the unions to come to the table and work with City Hall and TfL.”

People look out from the windows of a bus at Stratford Station in east London during a strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). PA Media

Citywide disruption

Londoners said the capital is “becoming unlivable” as strikes across the Tube network left them travelling for hours to get to work.

John Rayner, 28, a construction worker who was waiting for a bus in Paddington, west London, said: “I missed two buses this morning because queues for buses are so long and some buses don’t even bother to stop.

“I walked to Paddington for over an hour as I thought I would have more luck getting a Tube from here. It is a joke. This city is becoming unlivable.”

Office worker Jasmine Keane, 40, said: “I have had to take an Uber to get to work.

“I don’t even know what time I will get to work with the traffic and weather.”

Photo: People wait to get on a bus at Liverpool Street station in central London during a strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). PA Media

The Tube strike has caused crippling delays on London’s roads, affecting private cars, commercial vehicles and buses.

Location technology firm TomTom said at 9 am the level of road congestion was 119%, which is the highest figure for the capital this year. The level was 80% at the same time last week.

The figures represent the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.

Train passengers in the South were also hit by disruption unrelated to the Tube strike.

Network Rail said a suspected power supply failure had led to a “complete loss of signalling” in Ashtead, Surrey.

This was causing delays to services between Epsom and Leatherhead operated by Southern and South Western Railway. Rail replacement buses have been requested.

The disruption came on the day rail fares were increased, causing more misery for passengers.

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Shannon Butcher