Tube mayhem rocks London businesses

Shoppers and workers try to pile into Oxford Circus Tube station before London Underground staff downed tools for 24 hours
Retailers and leisure companies in London are braced for a multi-million pound hit as Tube workers go on strike for the second time in a month.

On the day of the last strike on 9 July, London shopping malls suffered a nine per cent drop in footfall compared with the same day last year, according to the British Council of Shopping Centres. The industry body expects to see a similar fall this time around.

“Where it does hurt is very small retailers and leisure operations. They more than anyone will feel the brunt because their visitors may be lost forever,” chief exec John Coyne told City A.M.

The economic hit from a Tube strike has been estimated to be as much as £300m per day, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses, although some economists argue that the overall impact is softened by online shopping and deferred spending.

The New West End Company warned last night that the strike will affect many of the 600 businesses it represents on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. Meanwhile. The British Hospitality Association said it expects a repeat of July’s strike, when online searches for hotels and accommodation in London fell by almost a quarter.

“While it is very difficult to make any accurate predictions of the financial impact of strike action, we have had reports from members that the last Tube strike had a significant impact on their business,” said Sean McKee, director of policy at London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Firms in the service industry reported significant loss of trade, particularly large corporate bookings at hotels and event spaces cancelled.”

CBI director Lucy Haynes said: “We would encourage all parties to return to the negotiating table to avoid the disruption this strike will cause to the capital’s businesses, not to mention during one of the city’s busiest tourist periods.”

Meanwhile the Conservatives’ mayoral hopefuls pledged to clamp down on Tube strikes if elected. Tory MEP Syed Kamall said that if he were in City Hall, he would “sit both sides down in a room, with [him] in the middle and [they] wouldn’t leave until [they] had made progress”. Zac Goldsmith suggested “opening up the discussions [between unions and London Underground] to public scrutiny.”

London Assembly member Andrew Boff generated interest on social media yesterday when he posted a short video showing him riding on the DLR.

In the video, Boff said: “I love the DLR. No drivers, no one to strike!”

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