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Visitors note: London Underground experiences strike actions

London underground, oldest in the world
London underground, oldest in the world
Photo: Laurie Jo Miller Farr

In London, I came across a pop-up tube strike. Quite used to this after 25 years living in Central London, I took to a combination of walking and buses to get around. But, it's not easy for visitors and taxis -- if you can get one during a strike -- are very expensive.

Once again, a 48-hour strike has shut down the London Underground. Pop-up strikes of this nature have been a feature of the oldest rapid transit system in the world for decades. This protest is over the plan to close all the ticket offices located inside tube stations which would mean the loss of hundreds of jobs, possibly up to 1,000.

Since the introduction of new ticket machines and the popular Oyster Card for pre-loaded journeys, the London Underground bosses claim that only 3% of tickets are bought at ticket offices. Fewer and fewer staffed ticket offices has been common for several years.

Much as Maggie Thatcher used to say, London Mayor Boris Johnson says the 48-hour walkout costs millions of pounds, causes huge disruption for commuters and visitors. All true. But the strikes occur anyway.

The Heathrow Express serving Paddington Station is also expected to have a 48-hour shutdown from early Tuesday morning, April 29. In addition, a second tube strike for 72 hours is called beginning next Monday, May 5 at 9 p.m. London time. Some London Heathrow trains will be running, but with a tube strike, options are limited. A Heathrow shuttle bus does run into Central and West London on a regular basis with stops at hotels.

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, claimed that staff at ticket counters do not contribute to the safety of the public and that these jobs are counter to the modernization of the London Underground and to keeping fares down.

Brown said, "At our busiest stations, there will be nearly a third more staff visible and available to provide, on a permanent basis, the face-to-face customer service we offered during the London 2012 Games. He added that,"Visitors to London and people with disabilities will be better looked after than ever before. Safety and security will never be compromised. Safety is not controlled from ticket offices but by station supervisors and dedicated control rooms. This will continue."

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