Could the London Underground strike inflict lasting damage on the capital’s reputation?

YES

In business, perception is everything. Cities with a strong and resilient infrastructure are the places that attract entrepreneurs, investment, and visitors. Cities wracked by industrial disputes are seen as places to avoid. So the current Tube strike, forecast by some to cost the city’s economy more than £50m a day, is damaging to the capital and the wider UK economy. Over three-quarters of our economy is based on services. London is home to many of the most profitable ones: the glass towers of the City; the tourist venues of the West End; the local services lining the high streets. These businesses depend on interactions between people, so when the city’s transport system is paralysed, they lose out on custom, staff time, a day’s takings, and export opportunities. Strikes disrupt companies and supply chains across Britain, and sap the UK’s global export potential. They must end, and quickly. Dr Adam Marshall is director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce.

No

The Tube strike causes serious inconvenience and frustration, but the long-term economic impact on London will be minimal. For a start, the Tube has not completely shut down, and there are other ways of getting around the city, with extra buses and river ferries laid on. The main impact will likely be on people not being able or willing to get to the shops in London, but this is unlikely to result in a major loss in overall retail sales. People can shop locally, buy online, or delay until the strikes are over. While there are also concerns that the capital’s reputation will suffer, this seems unlikely to be a significant long-term factor – memories are short, and London has many attractions. Most of those attempting to travel through the chaos to make it into the office will struggle. But more and more people are able to work from home these days, helping to minimise the overall impact. Howard Archer is chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight.

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