London Underground strikes: Tube network grinds to a halt

Last-ditch talks on eve of strike failed to produce a deal

Crowds queue for a bus at Stratford Station in east London during a strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on Tuesday. Photo: PA
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All London Underground lines are suspended, according to the Transport for London website, amid strike action by thousands of workers.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are taking action in a dispute over jobs, pensions and conditions.

London Overground is running a reduced service, while TfL Rail, the Docklands Light Railway and tram services are operating normally.

Buses are running but commuters have been warned to expect setbacks to journey times. Photos on social media showed large queues forming at bus stops.

RMT workers staged a walkout at 00:01 on Tuesday and will return to work at 23:59. Another strike between the same hours will be held on Thursday. While the Tube is expected to run on Wednesday and Friday, commuters have been warned to expect severe delays.

Susan Hall, leader of the Conservatives in the Greater London Assembly, branded the strikes a “disgrace” and said they would affect businesses which are trying to return to normal after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Conservative MP Greg Hands said the strikes were an “insult to hard-working Londoners who have sacrificed so much the last two years”.

The strikes could cost TfL an estimated £20 million ($26.8m) in ticket sales.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of “raiding” workers’ pensions and employment conditions. “Which side is the mayor on? The side of our members who risked their lives as key workers in Covid and are now, as he predicted, striking to defend livelihoods and future? Or is the Labour London mayor on the side of a Tory government which wants to attack jobs, pensions, conditions and services?” Mr Lynch said.

“Our members are central to the future of passenger safety and confidence on the Tube and they’ll be at the heart of London’s recovery. For the good of his workers and London’s economic recovery, Sadiq Khan needs to stand firm against the government, stop the pensions raid and end the job massacre.”

Mr Lynch said the dispute would be solved if Mr Khan “meets the reasonable demands of his own workforce”.

A representative of Mr Khan said the strike would cause disruption to Londoners and businesses trying to recover from two years of Covid curbs.

“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.”

The Conservative-led government agreed its latest bailout for TfL last Friday — a deal worth £200m. The package reaffirms ministers’ desire for the network to begin making changes to its pension scheme by the end of June.

The annual cost of TfL pensions currently runs to £375m.

Oliver Dowden, chairman of the Conservative party, pointed the blame for the strikes at Mr Khan.

“When Sadiq Khan first ran for Mayor of London he promised ‘zero days of strikes’ on the Tube. Now we are entering yet another period of damaging strikes that threaten to bring London to a standstill,” Mr Dowden tweeted.

“When you struggle to get to work today, remember: this is Sadiq Khan’s London.”

Updated: March 01, 2022, 9:36 AM