LONDON // Millions of Londoners endured a chaotic start to the week on Monday after a strike shut down most of the Underground network, including many city centre stations.
Commuters used cars, boats, bicycles and heaving buses to cope with a 24-hour walkout by underground station staff that left the majority of Tube stops in central London closed and no services operating from mainline stations such as Victoria, Kings Cross and Waterloo.
One of the major transport hubs in the south of the capital, Clapham Junction, had to be evacuated in the morning rush hour due to overcrowding as passengers were forced onto packed overland trains to get to work.
Squeezed into packed train carriages, or waiting for hours for buses in the cold, dark and damp January morning, many commuters expressed their frustration at the disruption.
“It’s a real pain,” said finance worker Ross Kemp, waiting for a bus at King’s Cross station, adding that he had “limited sympathy” for the striking Tube workers.
“I’m giving up on even trying,” said software developer Rajiv Perseedoss, 30, who was trying to get to work in central London from Canary Wharf in the east of the city.
“I’m not a Tube worker, I don’t know about their conditions, but whatever it is, they can’t take it out on everybody.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the action as unnecessary, saying he was already addressing concerns that job cuts had left many Tube stations dangerously understaffed.
“I accept the argument that we need more staff on the London Underground,” said the mayor, who took office in May last year, in an interview with BBC radio.
“Already we’ve created 200 new posts and want to carry on talking if the trade unions are unhappy. Why strike? Why not resolve these things amicably?”
Mick Cash, the leader of the RMT, said he was prepared to talk further but warned that the loss of more than 830 jobs, many due to ticket office closures, had left the network struggling.
“Five million people a day use the Tube and it’s creaking at the seams,” he told AFP.
“There aren’t enough staff to make sure it runs safely. If we don’t do something there’s going to be something drastic go wrong.”
* Agence France-Presse and Reuters