Commuters in London battled travel chaos on Thursday morning, with nine out of the 11 tube lines closed due to a 24-hour strike by London Underground staff.
Passengers have been urged to avoid the tube and check before they travel due to the latest strike by staff in the RMT and Unite unions in a long-running dispute over jobs and pensions. The Elizabeth Line, Docklands Light Railway, tram and national rail services are expected to run as normal but may be busier at peak times.
On the tube, only the Central, District and Northern lines were partially open, with trains running on a small section of their normal routes. The London Overground was partly suspended.
London buses were overcrowded and running slower due to busier roads, with travellers turned away from packed buses.
Commuters on social media expressed their solidarity for the workers, as well as complaining of massive queues and squeezed buses.
Location technology firm TomTom said there was little change in traffic on London’s roads on Thursday morning compared with a week ago, which traffic expert Andy Marchant said reflected commuters becoming accustomed to disruption after months of regular strikes and planning their journeys carefully or working from home.
Picket lines were mounted outside tube stations across London, manned primarily by RMT members, who are joined in the industrial action by about 1,000 Unite members.
Disruption on the tube is expected to persist into Friday morning as staff return to work.
Talks on Tuesday failed to avert the strike.
The RMT assistant general secretary John Leach called on TfL and the mayor of London to “stand up for staff”, who were striking for the sixth time this year despite losing money every time. He told the PA news agency outside King’s Cross St Pancras station: “Don’t they realise in management there’s a serious problem here?”
Glynn Barton, TfL’s chief operating officer, said: “I would like to apologise to our customers for any disruption caused by Thursday’s industrial action.
“Customers should check before they travel on Thursday and we are advising them to expect very limited or no service on the tube.”
The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “Our members are resolute in their determination to see a just settlement to this jobs and pensions dispute. And they will continue their industrial campaign for as long as it takes.”
Unite, which is also seeking a pay rise for its members working in various roles across London transport, accused TfL of “needlessly attacking” a viable pension scheme. Its general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “TfL must stop behaving like a race-to-the-bottom employer and put forward an offer that is acceptable to our members.”
Unite regional officer, Simon McCartney, said: “There is absolutely no need for TfL to press ahead with these attacks. The pension scheme is financially viable and in credit and the savings TfL were forced to make have already been found elsewhere. It is high time London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, intervened.”
TfL is proposing to reduce staffing numbers at stations by about 10% and to review its employees’ pension scheme, under an agreement made with central government for a funding settlement to shore up its finances after the pandemic.
TfL has said no employee will lose their job, and that there are no existing proposals to cut pensions.