UK Tube strike brings manic Monday to commuters in gridlocked London London Underground and rail unions say they are prepared to resume talks after 24-hour walkout closed stations across capital

UK Tube strike brings manic Monday to commuters in gridlocked London
“The truth is that London is on an almost total shutdown,” he said, adding that TfL should come up with “serious and urgent plans”
London Underground and rail unions say they are prepared to resume talks after 24-hour walkout closed stations across capital
London tube strike causes commuter chaos
Gwyn TophamTransport correspondent
Monday 9 January 2017 21.03 GMTFirst published on Monday 9 January 2017 10.50 GMT

London Underground and the rail unions said they were prepared to resume talks later this week over safe staffing levels on the tube, after a day in which millions of commuters were affected by a strike across the network.

Representatives from the TSSA union, who represent station staff, will meet on Wednesday and talks could resume afterwards. The unions have an ongoing mandate from a ballot in the autumn that allows them to call further strikes in the coming weeks, but sources indicated that further industrial action was not expected.

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Full tube services will be restored on Tuesday morning, but commuters in London’s suburbs and the south-east are braced for more disruption as train drivers, mainly in the Aslef union, along with some RMTmembers, strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and virtually no trains operating on the Southern network.

Tube stations throughout the centre of the capital were closed by the 24-hour walkout by staff in the TSSA and RMT unions which began at 6pm on Sunday night, leaving commuters to crowd onto trains or attempt to board busy buses slowed by gridlocked roads.

Limited tube services ran in outer zones on the London Underground network that normally carries 4 million passengers a day. Transport for London laid on additional buses, but they did little to alleviate many journeys, with heavy traffic delaying their progress. Many turned to walking or cycling, with almost twice as many bikes from the capital’s cycle scheme hired than normal.

Most national rail services were running into the capital, although Southern remained disrupted by the effects of an overtime ban by train drivers. At one point, Clapham Junction, the country’s busiest interchange on a normal day, was evacuated because of overcrowding.

Blackfriars tube station was closed by the 24-hour strike. Photograph: Hayoung Jeon/EPA
TfL said it had run some trains on eight of its 11 tube lines on Monday and opened more than 60% of the stations across the network, but unions accused it of “dangerously exaggerating” the level of service available, leading people to expect to travel and causing overcrowding at stations.

The strike came as a blow to London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, whom Conservatives accused of breaking his campaign pledge to prevent such action. Khan said: “I share the deep frustration of millions of commuters whose journeys have been disrupted, all because of a completely unnecessary strike.

“We’ve made huge progress on addressing this dispute, which began under Boris Johnson, and we are committed to resolving it amicably.

“A good deal, that will ensure station safety and staffing levels across the tube network, remains on offer, and I urge the unions to continue talks. Londoners deserve a resolution to this issue without any further industrial action.”

About 3,700 station staff went on strike, mostly RMT members employed as customer service assistants or supervisors, working in the ticket hall and manning gates and platforms. The strike was part of a continuing row over the impact of ticket office closures and the loss of 900 jobs as part of TfL’s “modernisation” plans brought in by London’s previous mayor, Boris Johnson.

An independent review in the autumn by watchdog London TravelWatch, commissioned by Khan, found that many tube passengers had been adversely affected by the changes, but it did not call for ticket offices to be reopened.

The unions said there were safety fears about the running of the tube, including concerns over overcrowding, monitoring of stations and trains, and the personal safety of staff working alone.

Steve Griffiths, London Underground’s chief operating officer, said: “We had always intended to review staffing levels and have had constructive discussions with the unions. We agree that we need more staff in our stations and have already started to recruit 200 extra staff and this is likely to increase further as we work through the other areas that need to be addressed.

“All of this will ensure that our customers feel safe, fully supported and able to access the right assistance in our stations at all times. We encourage the unions to continue working with us on this process and the only way to resolve this dispute is to keep talking about how to improve our stations.”

Commuters take a shortcut through a construction site during the 24-hour tube strike. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
Manuel Cortes, the TSSA’s general secretary, said that while hiring more staff was a step in the right direction, “200 jobs cannot plug the gaping hole that’s been left in the system by devastating Tory attacks on TfL’s budget”.

In his 2015 spending review, George Osborne, the then chancellor, cut about £700m from TfL’s central government grant until 2020.

Cortes said: “Put quite simply, these levels of cuts are not compatible with a safely run, properly staffed tube and my members are highly anxious about the impact this is having and will continue to have on their ability to keep you safe.”

The RMT leader, Mick Cash, turned his fire on tube bosses for talking up the number of services in operation. “The truth is that London is on an almost total shutdown,” he said, adding that TfL should come up with “serious and urgent plans”, including a schedule for restoring staffing to a safe and sustainable level. The union would remain available for talks to do so, he said.