As summer 2023 arrives, London is bracing itself for a series of transportation strikes that threaten to disrupt the daily commute of its residents. Two of the city’s major transport systems, the buses and the trains, are set for strikes throughout June, with the possibility of further action extending into the summer.
London Bus Strikes
Bus drivers in London, primarily those in the north and east of the city, are planning to strike over a pay dispute with their employer, Arriva, owned by Deutsche Bahn, a state-owned enterprise under the control of the German government, operates a significant portion of London’s bus network on behalf of Transport for London.
Around 1,700 bus drivers are set to strike on four days in June: Tuesday 20 June, Wednesday 21 June, Tuesday 27 June, and Wednesday 28 June. The Unite union, which organises the strike, has warned of further strikes if the dispute is not resolved. The strikes are expected to affect the following day routes: 19, 29, 34, 38, 41, 73, 78, 102, 121, 123, 141, 144, 149, 150, 158, 175, 191, 192, 221, 242, 243, 253, 254, 259, 279, 307, 313, 318, 325, 329, 340, 341, 349, 377, 675, W3, W4, W6, and the following night routes: N19, N29, N38, N41, N73, N102, N123, N149, N158, N242, N243, N253, N279, N341.
The strike stems from a dispute over pay increases. Unite has rejected a 7% pay increase, arguing that it represents an “effective real terms pay cut” when the real inflation rate is at 11.4%. The union has emphasized that the drivers, who start on pay rates of just £13.65 an hour, are struggling to afford to live in London.
London Train Strikes
The rail strikes initiated by the Aslef and RMT unions have disrupted the weekends of many Londoners. Although no further strike dates have been announced for June and July, union leaders have made it clear that they expect further action. The Aslef and RMT unions collectively cover most train services running through London, including the Elizabeth line.
No tube strikes are currently planned, but many London underground workers belong to the union RMT. Last week, 96% of these workers voted in favour of industrial action, which suggests that disruptions might be expected during the summer.
Both unions have been fighting for a pay rise and better working conditions for more than a year. Aslef recently rejected an offer of a 4% pay rise, which it described as ‘risible’. The RMT continues to refuse offers tabled by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), including a recent proposal of a 5% pay rise.
Legislation and the Future of Strikes
The impact of future strikes might be mitigated by legislation currently going through its final stages in the UK Parliament. The proposed bill would require striking workers to meet ‘minimum service levels,’ potentially preventing complete shutdowns during strikes. It would apply to key public services, including trains, and allow employers to sue unions and potentially dismiss employees if minimum services are not maintained during strikes.
For London’s trains, the legislation could mean that future strikes are less severe, with a minimum service ensuring some level of operation even during industrial action.
As London faces a summer of transportation strikes, residents and visitors alike will need to be prepared for potential disruptions. With negotiations still underway, the hope is that satisfactory resolutions can be found to avoid extensive strike action. In the meantime, travellers are advised to plan ahead and consider alternative modes of transport.
(Note: As the situation with the taxi drivers is not yet clear, I couldn’t provide comprehensive information about it in this article. I recommend keeping an eye on the news for the latest updates on the taxi driver strike.)
Tips for the Travelers
Keep an eye on the news and regularly check the websites or social media pages of Transport for London (TfL), National Rail, and other relevant transportation services for updates on strikes and service disruptions.
If you know that a strike is scheduled, plan your journeys in advance and allow extra time to reach your destination. During a strike, services can be delayed, cancelled, or more crowded than usual.
You might want to consider alternative modes of transport such as walking, cycling, or using a car or taxi service (though keep in mind the potential taxi strike). If you’re in central London, the distances between locations can be surprisingly walkable. Hiring a bicycle can also be a good option, with London’s Santander Cycles (also known as “Boris Bikes”) available for short-term hire.
If possible, try to travel outside of peak hours to avoid the busiest times. Services tend to be less crowded during off-peak hours.
There are many mobile apps that can provide real-time updates on public transport in London. Citymapper, for example, is a widely-used app that provides up-to-date travel information and alternative route options.
Patience and Understanding
Remember that strikes are usually the result of unresolved issues between workers and their employers. While they can cause inconvenience, they’re often a last resort for workers seeking improved conditions or pay. Patience and understanding can go a long way during these times.
If you’re visiting London, check your travel insurance policy. Some policies might cover additional expenses incurred due to strike action.
Remember that circumstances can change quickly, so staying updated on the current situation is crucial.
Things to do during the Transportations Strikes in London
Absolutely, while transportation strikes can be disruptive, You can also serve as an opportunity to explore London in different and perhaps unexpected ways. Here are some suggestions:
Explore Local Neighbourhoods
London is a city of villages, each with its own character and charm. Use this time to explore local neighbourhoods. You might discover a great cafe, a charming boutique, or a beautiful park you never knew existed.
Walk Along the River Thames
The Thames Path is a wonderful way to see some of London’s most famous landmarks, such as the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and the Tate Modern. Plus, it’s free!
Visit Local Museums and Galleries
Many of London’s world-class museums and galleries are free to enter and are often within walking distance of each other, especially in areas like South Kensington, which is home to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Enjoy London’s Parks
London has many beautiful parks, including Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and Richmond Park. They’re ideal for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or even a bike ride.
Try a Guided Walking Tour
There are many companies offering walking tours in London, including free ones. These can be a great way to learn more about the city’s history and see the sights without relying on public transport.
Cycle Around the City
Consider renting a Santander Cycle (commonly known as a “Boris Bike”) and biking around London. Many areas have dedicated cycle lanes, and it’s a great way to stay active while sightseeing.
Take a Boat Trip
Even though the strikes are happening, the Thames Clippers river bus service is a great way to see the city from a different perspective and they usually continue running during strikes.
Enjoy a Show
London’s West End is famous for its theatre shows. If you’re in the area, you could catch a matinee or evening performance. Just make sure to check how you’ll get home if the show ends late!
Remember, one of the best things about London is its diversity – there’s always something to see or do, regardless of any transportation strikes. So while the strikes may be inconvenient, they shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all that London has to offer.