A 24-hour Tube strike started yesterday evening, marking the first action in a week of more travel turmoil for travellers - and the action could be set to spread.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association refused a last-ditch offer yesterday, which had already been dismissed by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union. As a result, Tube services have been severely impacted by the walkout: Transport for London (TfL) has warned that the majority of Zone 1 stations will be shut throughout Monday.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said that whilst reps “accept the offer of more staff is a step in the right direction to restoring Tube safety standards, they do not believe the offer will return those standards with the urgency that is now needed”.
RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said London Underground had “not put forward acceptable proposals” to address what it said were safety and staffing issues.
The Mayor urged the unions to “get back around the negotiating table” and said TfL would be available “around the clock” to resolve the dispute. Sadiq Khan said the strike was “pointless” as there was “a good deal sitting on the table”.
Another wave of strike action is due to hit Southern rail from Tuesday in an ongoing dispute over the role of guards, with train drivers walking out on three days.
The government has criticised the unions for politically motivated action and Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: "Aslef [the train drivers' union] should call off the whole strike. It's time that they and the RMT explained to the hundreds of thousands of passengers suffering needless disruption what they strikes are really about."
He added that "passengers should be under no illusion - this dispute is not about safety, jobs or pay".
Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned of the impact strike action is having both on commuters, and on businesses - saying the closure of Zone 1 stations was "a disaster" for them.
“London commuters will be at breaking point," he said. "For months workers trying to commute to their place of work have endured Southern rail strikes on an already unreliable service – this is only compounded by today’s Tube strike which will inevitably cripple London Underground and no doubt in turn paralyse London roads.”
A two-day strike is planned by cabin crew on British Airways from Tuesday. The airline has cancelled up to 48 flights as a result, though passengers will be put on alternative departures the same day.
There are concerns travel chaos may spread. Tomorrow the RMT is also balloting members on Arriva Rail North, operator of the Northern network, for strike action over a pay dispute.
Last month it was announced that Swiss firm Stadler had won a contract to build new Merseyrail trains, which won’t have conductors or guards, and doors controlled by drivers.
The RMT has said “there is an issue there”, with Cash saying the union would be “seeking assurances” from Merseyrail that it has no intention of removing guards from its trains, claiming they were “ramming DOO [driver only operated trains] down our throats”.