One of the world’s busiest Tube systems nearly came to a standstill on Tuesday as the first of two 24-hour strikes scheduled for this week shut down the London Underground.
Millions of commuters have been encouraged to work remotely due to expected “serious disruptions” to service on the system, commonly known as the Tube, on Tuesday and Thursday. Limited service on some of the system’s 11 lines had resumed Tuesday afternoon.
Around 10,000 London Underground workers represented by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers quit on Tuesday and are expected to do so again on Thursday, due to concerns over job cuts and pensions.
The London Underground, like many public transport systems around the world, has seen a sharp drop in ridership and revenue during the coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday’s strike came on the same day as an increase in rail fares in England and Wales.
“These are the same transport staff hailed as heroes for transporting London through COVID for nearly two years, often at serious personal risk, who now have no choice but to strike in defense of their livelihoods,” the union said in a statement last week.
Transport for London, the agency that operates the Tube, said in a statement that it had not proposed any changes to pensions and that cost-cutting efforts would not lead to job losses.
The strike and fare increases are taking place in London amid concerns over funding for the transport system as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.
Passengers in many cities and countries have returned to public transport at an uneven pace after waves of coronavirus variants kept many commuters at home and sickened public transport workers.
Ahead of the strikes in London, the city’s transport agency said in a statement that ridership on the Tube and buses increased in late January after restrictions on working from home were lifted. Weekday subway ridership during this period was “regularly about” 60% of what it was before the pandemic, the agency said.
On Friday, Britain’s Department for Transport announced it had agreed 200 million pounds (about $268 million) in funding for London’s public transport agency until June 24. He said London Mayor Sadiq Khan should come up with a plan to cut costs and to bring the transport workers’ pension fund “into a financially viable position”.