More London Underground strikes to cripple already restricted network

More London Underground strikes to cripple already restricted network

January 10, 2022

Tube strikes to cripple ALREADY restricted network: TfL staff vow to walkout in THREE separate rows from next week… as FIVE Northern Line stations shut for four months and some Overground services are reduced by HALF

  • RMT says 94% of its members working on the Tube have backed upcoming industrial action on dates TBC
  • This is on top of set of strikes also announced today of Metropolitan line drivers on Jan 20/21 and Feb 10/11
  • Third strike involving Night Tube drivers will continue to hit Central and Victoria line services until June 19
  • Separately, Northern line’s Bank branch will close for upgrade work from this Saturday until mid-May 2022
  • Transport for London also today imposed temporary changes to Overground timetable due to staff absence

Londoners were today faced with another five months of Underground disruption due to strikes – with unions now planning three separate industrial actions due to issues over rotas, jobs, pensions and working conditions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said 94 per cent of its members on the Tube who took part in a ballot of 10,000 staff that ended today have backed upcoming industrial action, with the dates to be confirmed.

This is in addition to a second set of strikes the RMT also announced today by drivers on the Metropolitan line based at the Neasden depot in North London which will take place on January 20 and 21, and February 10 and 11.

And both of those strikes come on top of a third row over rosters on the Night Tube which has led to weekend walkouts and will continue to hit Central and Victoria line services on Friday and Saturday evenings until June 19.

The industrial action will add further woe to those travelling across the capital, with those heading into the City already facing a difficult journey into work for the next four months when the Northern line’s Bank branch closes.

The route between Kennington and Moorgate will shut from this Saturday until mid-May 2022, which is due to upgrade works at Bank to increase the station’s capacity and provide step-free access to the Northern line.

Engineers will be connecting new tunnels to the existing railway and integrating new systems in Bank, with the station set to close for Northern line users along with Elephant and Castle, Borough, London Bridge and Moorgate.

Transport for London also today imposed temporary changes to the Overground timetable due to staff absences, with service frequencies halved between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays, and Richmond and Stratford.  

There were 920,000 entries and exits on Underground trains and 1,100,000 taps on buses up to 10am today. When compared to ridership last Thursday, January 6, this was up 17 per cent on the Tube and 5 per cent on buses. In terms of pre-pandemic levels, Tube ridership is at around 40 per cent and bus ridership at about 66 per cent.

This Transport for London graph shows passenger data split by station type, dating back to the start of 2020

This Transport for London graph dating back to the start of 2020 shows how passenger numbers have dropped once again

Commuters wearing face coverings travel on a London Underground Victoria Line carriage on Wednesday last week

This close-up of the London Underground map shows how the Northern line Bank branch closure will affect Tube passengers

At the weekend, Tube ridership was between 55 and 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with 2.4million journeys made over the weekend. Bus ridership was between 65 per cent and 75 per cent – with 5.3million journeys made.

Today, the RMT announced that Underground workers have voted to strike in a dispute over jobs, pensions and conditions – although the union has not yet confirmed the dates on when this will take place.

What are the three separate Tube strikes? 

The RMT said its members have been refused assurances on jobs, pensions and working conditions in the midst of an ‘on-going financial crisis’ it claims are driven by central Government.

The union’s executive committee will consider the ballot result but says it will take ‘whatever action is necessarily’ to prevent staff paying the price for a financial crisis ‘that is not of their making’.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘A financial crisis at LU [London Underground] has been deliberately engineered by the Government to drive a cuts agenda which would savage jobs, services, safety and threaten the working conditions and pensions of our members.

‘It must never be forgotten that these are the same transport staff praised as heroes for carrying London through Covid for nearly two years, often at serious personal risk, who now have no option but to rise up and defend their livelihoods.

‘The politicians need to wake up to the fact that transport staff will not pay the price for this cynically engineered crisis and we will coordinate a campaign of resistance with colleagues from other unions impacted by this threat.’

This was announced on the same day as another series of strikes by Metropolitan line drivers based at the Neasden depot over what the RMT described as the ‘outrageous imposition of rosters‎ by London Underground bosses’.

Shoppers wear face masks on Oxford Street in London this afternoon as TfL red buses can be seen in the background

A London Underground user wears a mask as they travel on an escalator while on the network in the capital this afternoon

It said there had been an ‘overwhelming vote for action by drivers’, with all members told not to book on for any shifts which start between 11.30am on Thursday, January 20 and 11.29am on Friday, January 21; as well as between 11.30am on Thursday, February 10 until Friday February 11 at 11.29am

How Covid-related staff shortages are affecting train services across UK

  • Avanti West Coast: Says it is ‘doing everything we can to run our full timetable but there may be some short notice cancellations’.
  • c2c: Normal service.
  • Caledonian Sleeper: Normal service.
  • Chiltern Railways: Operator warns it ‘may have to make some short notice changes to our timetable’ because of the ‘impact of Covid-19 on our train crews’.
  • CrossCountry: ‘Short notice alterations and cancellations’ because of ‘increasing levels of absence amongst train crew due to Covid-19 isolation periods’ 
  • East Midlands Railway: Normal service.
  • Eurostar: Normal service.
  • Gatwick Express: No services ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘ongoing effect of coronavirus isolation and sickness’.
  • Grand Central: Normal service.
  • Great Northern: Reduced service on all routes ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘significant ongoing impact of coronavirus, particularly in terms of staff sickness’.
  • Great Western Railway: ‘Reduced temporary timetable’ in operation since January 8 because of ‘higher than usual levels of staff being absent or self-isolating due to Covid’.
  • Greater Anglia: ‘Sunday-style timetable with earlier first trains and more trains at peak times’ on weekdays from January 10.
  • Heathrow Express: Normal service.
  • Hull Trains: A temporary timetable will operate until February 12 to ‘minimise disruption’.
  • LNER: Running a ‘reduced timetable’ between London and Leeds/Lincoln until at least February 11
  • London Northwestern Railway: ‘Some trains may be cancelled at short notice’ and there is a rail replacement bus service on the Abbey Line and Marston Vale Line ‘until further notice’.
  • Lumo: Normal service.
  • Merseyrail: Some trains will be cancelled from January 8 ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant affecting staff availability’.
  • Northern: Operating ‘several amended timetables’ because of ‘Covid and its impact on the availability of our train crew’.
  • ScotRail: It is ‘being forced to bring in a temporary timetable’ until January 28 ‘as we continue to see colleagues off sick because of Covid-19’.
  • South Western Railway: New reduced timetable from January 17 due to a ‘shortage of staff across our business’ causing ‘short term cancellations’
  • Southeastern: Timetable reduced by 7% from January 10 because of an ‘increasing number of our colleagues affected by Covid’ and work from home guidance
  • Southern: London Victoria station services restarted from January 10 but reduced timetable continues ‘until further notice’ due to the ‘ongoing impact of coronavirus isolation and sickness’. 
  • Stansted Express: Half-hourly service running.
  • Thameslink: Reduced service on all routes ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘ongoing impact of coronavirus isolation and sickness’.
  • TransPennine Express: ‘Amended timetable’ from January 10 ‘due to a shortage of available train crew as a result of rising sickness levels’
  • Transport for London: Reduced service on Richmond to Stratford and Dalston Junction to New Cross routes from January 10 due to a ‘number of staff off ill due to Covid or self isolating’
  • Transport for Greater Manchester: Normal Metrolink tram services.
  • Transport for Wales: ‘Emergency timetable’ to ‘prepare for an expected rise in staff shortages due to the emergence of the Omicron variant’.
  • West Midlands Railway: Rail replacement buses on the Leamington Spa-Nuneaton via Coventry line ‘until further notice’ due to the ‘impact of Covid-19 on our workforce’. ‘Some services on the Birmingham New Street to Shrewsbury line are likely to be cancelled’.

Mr Lynch said of this strike: ‘There’s a toxic culture developing at LU which amounts to the wholesale ripping up of normal procedures and agreements and our members at Neasden have said loud and clear that enough is enough.

‘I am calling on Tube bosses to get a grip and stop this wholesale undermining of normal industrial relations. We remain available for talks but no one should underestimate our determination to stop this nonsense.’

This comes on top of what TfL described as potentially ‘severe disruption’ to night services on weekend evenings until June due to strikes by Tube drivers.

Members of the RMT are walking out on Friday and Saturday evenings since last weekend on the Central and Victoria lines in a dispute over rosters.

The action is set to continue on weekend evenings until June, with passengers urged to check before they travel and use buses to complete journeys.

London Underground said new rosters included assurances that there will be no job cuts, the option of permanent work for those on part-time contracts, and only scheduling up to four night shift weekends per year.

London Underground managing director Andy Lord said: ‘We’re disappointed that once again the RMT is continuing to push for strike action that is likely to cause further unnecessary disruption.

‘We’re calling on the RMT to join us for talks so we can work together to resolve this dispute around roster changes, which mean no job losses and greater flexibility for drivers.

‘If these six months of action do go ahead, we will continue to operate as regular a service as possible. However, customers are advised to check before they travel and use buses to complete their journeys where required.

‘I apologise to them for the impact this unnecessary action will have on their journeys.’

But RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘If London Underground and the mayor thought this fight for progressive and family-friendly working practices was going away they need to think again.

‘RMT has repeatedly put forward cost neutral proposals that would repair the damage unleashed by deleting 200 driver posts and which would dig LU out of this mess.

‘They have ignored us and that approach will have severe consequences for Londoners through to the summer.’

However, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, said: ‘Following another challenging festive period, hospitality and leisure businesses hope that the start of 2022 will bring optimism and footfall, however the new year joy has been depleted by the threat of even more disruptions caused by the planned Night Tube strikes.

‘The proposed six-month strike action threatens the West End’s night-time economy at a critical point when many businesses will be looking to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

‘We strongly encourage RMT to call off these strikes in order to give viable hospitality businesses in the capital the best possible chance of survival.’

The RMT issued an update on the first weekend of Night Tube strikes yesterday saying that its members had ‘remained solid and determined in support of the Night Tube action this weekend and have sent out the clearest possible signal that this issue isn’t going away’.

As for the Northern line Bank branch closure, Transport for London said many lines and stations across central London will be busier, especially around the City, but extra Tube services and a new bus route will operate.

The new bus, the 733 from Oval into the City (Finsbury Square), will also be introduced on weekdays and run every seven to eight minutes.

Waterloo, Embankment, Tottenham Court Road and London Bridge are expected to be among the busiest stations during the closure,

Andy Lord, Managing Director of London Underground, said: ‘The Bank station capacity upgrade is a crucial project that will support the City’s growth and success after these challenging years of navigating the pandemic.

‘I’m sorry for the disruption this vital work will cause, and I can assure Londoners that if there was any other way to connect the new tunnels with the existing railway then we would.’ 

Rail passengers wait for a South Western Railway service at Bracknell train station in Berkshire during rush hour this morning

Commuters wait to catch a London-bound train at Bracknell railway station in Berkshire during the morning rush hour today

Meanwhile Transport for London said it had ‘planned some temporary changes to London Overground services but we are currently running more services on the two impacted lines than we had anticipated’.

Get used to a ‘Sunday-style timetable’ on the trains ‘until further notice’

Rail companies across Britain today warned passengers that they face reduced services ‘until further notice’ amid rail replacement buses, halved service frequencies and a ‘Sunday-style timetable’ on some routes.

Train firms have slashed hundreds of services due to thousands of Covid-related staff absences, with bosses warning passengers to expect last-minute cancellations and more crowded trains due to fewer in operation.

Some operators have brought in new reduced timetables from today including Greater Anglia, Southeastern and TransPennine Express while London Overground is now operating some of its services at half the normal levels.

Southern Rail has finally reintroduced trains to and from London Victoria after the post-Christmas closure was extended by a week, although not all services are back and those that are remain on an amended timetable.

Staff absence for all reasons is now at 11 per cent across all operators, according to the latest Rail Delivery Group data in the week to January 5 – a sharp rise from 8.9 per cent up to December 29 and 8.7 per cent to December 22. The ever-rising figure is also significantly up on 7.6 per cent in November 2021 and 4.5 per cent at the end of August 2020, during the period when Covid-19 rates in the UK were at their lowest during the pandemic.

Train companies said the amended timetables had been brought in because of high staff absence numbers but also lower demand since the Government’s working from home guidance was brought back in last month.

The planned timetable changes mean a reduction of four trains per hour between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays on weekdays with no service between Surrey Quays and New Cross. 

This means 12 trains will operate per hour and that customers may have gaps between trains of up to eight minutes in the core section between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays.

A half-hourly service will now operate between Richmond and Stratford on weekdays – which will mean a reduction in frequency to six trains per hour in the core section between Willesden Junction and Stratford, down from ten per hour. 

However, TfL said it would ‘will run more services on these routes if absence rates allow us to and we will continue to keep operating services as planned across our network’. 

Weekend and Night Overground services are not affected by the changes.

TfL added that across its workforce, it currently has around 500 members of non-office-based staff off work due to a Covid-related illness, but said the overall proportion of staff off work ‘remains low’. 

It said there ‘may be other staff who work in more office-based roles who are self-isolating but are still working from home’. 

There has not yet been any major impact on London Underground services apart from the Waterloo and City line which returned at weekday peak times today. 

Rory O’Neill, TfL’s general manager for London Overground, said: ‘Like many businesses and organisations around the country, we are experiencing the effects of the pandemic with a number of staff off ill due to Covid or self-isolating.

‘To ensure we can provide a reliable service, it has been necessary to make some timetable changes to London Overground services from Dalston Junction to New Cross and Richmond to Stratford. 

‘Customers continue to have a range of travel options. We will continue to do all we can to keep operating a near to normal service but advise everyone to check our website and the TfL Go app before they travel as further services may be affected at short notice by staff absences.’ 

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