At 18.30 BST on Wednesday, the entire staff of the London Underground went on strike, and thus the city erupted into a distinctly organized form of chaos which is expected to last until around 21.30 on Thursday. With the tube network shut down, Transport for London has added extra cycles to its bike share program and around 200 extra buses on major routes—wheeling out vehicles that were first put into use over fifty years ago. And yet, lines for buses stretch for several blocks, Uber prices are surging and spectators have been forced to leave Wimbledon early.
The July 8-9 strike marks the first time in 13 years that the London Underground has come to a standstill with all 11 LU lines and their 270 stations shut down. And it’s largely because Transport for London is intending to launch a “Night Tube” service in September that Mayor Boris Johnson argues would bring millions to the local economy. Tube drivers have been offered a raise, but concerns remain over working conditions, and union bosses have rejected the offer on the grounds that they weren’t given enough time to think about it.
Or, as a fabulous analysis by BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott explains: “Not that long ago, bosses on both sides would have got together, informally, maybe over a beer, to see if they could smooth the path for an agreement. That hasn’t happened this time [due to new bosses]. So we’ve got a group of frustrated unions. A frustrated LU. And four million Tube passengers in the middle.” And to think a few pints could have addressed the whole thing.
So Transport for London laid out a few extra measures; according to their site they “put around 200 extra buses on the roads to help Londoners get around,” and some of these buses are basically museum pieces:
— Islington Tribune (@IslingtonTrib) July 9, 2015
But the lines are still very, very, very long:
— The Independent (@Independent) July 9, 2015
In addition to that, TfL suggested that anyone with a bike hop on it and avoid the lines, they also added extra cycle hubs and cycles around the city for those who wanted to use one of the bike shares—rather a lot of them:
— Samuel Coates (@SamuelCoates) July 9, 2015
The only problem with that approach, as the Telegraph noticed, is that frustrated riders late for work aren’t able to find docking stations, so the bikes are just getting ditched. The good news is, by tomorrow, services will be largely back to normal, and the unions may have struck a better deal for their drivers.
Images via Evening Standard and BBC London Travel on Twitter