Thursday, September 21News For London

London rail strikes: commuters face woes even as strikes suspended

With the RMT calling off strikes at short notice, rail services have been disrupted, throwing Londoners in a disarray. We learn about the difficulties faced by commuters in the last few days.

Thousands of railway commuters in London have been left in the lurch after disruptions in train services owing to suspended strikes. The RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers) called off its strikes that were scheduled for the 5th, 7th, and 9th of November. 

Image credit: Mihir Chittar

The RMT suspended its strikes a few hours before the first planned strike on the 5th of November. The strikes were announced to demand better wages and working conditions for rail employees.

However, in a U-turn of events, the RMT recalled its strikes after deciding to begin a period of ‘intensive negotiations’ with Network Rail, according to Sky News.

Despite strikes being called off in the capital, services remained in a state of disruption, leading to train cancellations. RMT Chief Negotiator Tim Shoveller said: “Our advice remains to please check before you travel on Saturday and Monday and only travel by rail if absolutely necessary.”

With rail disruptions taking a toll on the plans of London’s commuters, we went to Kings Cross St. Pancras to learn what people had to say about the strikes, their subsequent suspension, and the effect these events had on their commute.

Cyril, a frequent user of the tube, had this to say about the effect of the strikes on his commute: “I work closely with the sales team of my company and they were supposed to close down for a couple of days this week. Because of the train strikes, we also had to cancel a couple of meetings.”

When asked about his thoughts on the strikes, Cyril said he understood and empathised with the RMT, but felt that their actions should have not been carried out at the cost of the travel disruptions for regular commuters.

We asked Sophie, a university student, if the rail strikes affected her. She said: “Yes. I was supposed to go home on Saturday and I couldn’t really book a train home.”

When asked about any transport alternatives, Sophie said that travelling by bus and Uber seemed to be the next best options. However, she felt that travelling by cab was way more expensive, and was not the most feasible option.

Speaking about the rail strikes, Naom, a frequent user of the tube who works in Central London, felt that there needed to be more awareness about the strikes, especially among people from other countries visiting London.

This was further highlighted when we spoke to a tourist on condition of anonymity. She claimed that those travelling in her party had no idea about any strikes. They also claimed to have faced no strike-related difficulties, except a technical glitch on the Piccadilly Line.

Disruptions also meant that some trains arrived extremely late, and even skipped certain stations altogether.

To better understand the sentiments of students experiencing difficulties because of rail disruptions, we visited the Harrow campus of the University of Westminster. Simona, a master’s student, said: “Today, I took the Elizabeth Line and it didn’t come straight away to Liverpool Street. It went to White Chapel first and then came to Liverpool street. I missed half of my lesson. I also got marked late on my attendance and it affected me.”

Simona’s worries did not just end there, unfortunately. Rail disruptions also affected her part-time job. She said: “I was late for my work and it affected my hours. This led to a deduction from my salary. That affected me a lot personally. I was also late to reach home as I reached at 1 am that night. For a girl, it’s really risky to come at that time. Even on the weekend, I was late to reach everywhere.”

We tried contacting members of staff from Kings Cross St. Pancras for their views on the strikes. However, they refused to comment.

The possibilities of future strikes were reaffirmed by RMT General Secretary Mike Lynch. Lynch – in an interview with Sky News – said that plans for strikes remain ‘very alive’ with a re-ballot to decide on further strikes taking place on the 15th of November.

With the threat of future strikes looming over commuters, it remains to be seen how badly affected London’s commuters will be if the RMT decides to call strike action in the near future.

Edited by Nneoma Ekwegh and Krithika Iyer