Monday, January 9, 2017

A Strike Empties London’s Underground. Aboveground Is a Different Story.



More than two million commuters were thought to be affected by the walkout, which came amid cold, rainy weather, a falling pound and new fears over Britain’s plans to exit the European Union. Two separate industrial actions at British Airways and Southern Railway are also expected this week.
“Hard Brexit, pound plummet, Tube strike,” Alex Caldwell, a Londoner, wrote on Twitter, adding the hashtag #blueMonday.
As a consequence of the strike, Uber fares more than quadrupled, further raising the ire of Londoners and making Leicester Square, a major tourist hot spot, seem like a “Toyota Prius convention,” according to Chris Parsons, another commuter.
Transport for London, the Underground’s operator, provided river services — that is, boat rides across the Thames River. The company was also forced to wheel out its heritage buses — vintage double-deckers — to help ferry thousands of bus passengers, offering some a brief moment of delight.


The staff walkout on the Underground came after a long-running dispute over the closing of ticket offices.
Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, described the subway strike as “completely unnecessary,” saying the dispute should have been resolved amicably around the negotiating table. “You going on strike means millions of Londoners have had a miserable journey today,” he told the BBC.
But Mick Cash, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, or R.M.T., one of two unions that organized the strike, said that Transport for London had failed to offer a “serious set of proposals” to deal with stations that had insufficient staff to be run safely.
John Leach, a R.M.T. regional organizer, also told the BBC: “You can’t run London Underground with millions and millions of pounds of less money,” 834 fewer station staff, “but at the same time carry a million people more every day and keep it safe and efficient for the passengers.”
The strike is expected to end Tuesday morning — just in time for two other strikes to begin, one by drivers of Southern, a troubled rail service that serves southern England, and another by British Airways cabin staff.At British Airways, crew members who work on both short and long-haul flights are taking action after negotiations over what they call “poverty pay” broke down. As a result of the strike, major disruptions are expected at Heathrow Airport, with up to 48 flights grounded.
The disruptions prompted worries over London’s image as an open, global city.
“This is the wrong time to send out a message across the world that London isn’t open for business, as it is being closed by ongoing strikes,” Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
“It will put tourists off visiting and discourage business from moving their headquarters to the U.K.,” he said. “Strikes like this go to the very heart of undermining companies’ efforts to make a real success of Brexit.”
But Wetherspoons, a British pub chain that supported leaving the European Union, begged to differ by cheerfully reminding Londoners: “Remember today during the Tube strike, most stations have a Wetherspoon pub in walking distance, so just come in and get mangled instead.”

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