Commuters in London are facing a day of transport chaos after a 24-hour strike by tube drivers and station staff started on Wednesday morning.
Transport for London (TfL) urged passengers to check their route before travelling, with virtually all of the Underground network closed and other services likely to be much busier and liable to disruption and delay.
Roads were expected to be extremely congested in parts of the city, slowing buses, while TfL warned of possible disruption spilling into parts of the Elizabeth line and London Overground where stations are shared with tube stops.
The seventh strike to close the tube in just over a year comes on budget day, as unions protest against government-led policies that could hit staff pensions and mean job cuts.
TfL has said no cuts to pensions are planned, but it has started to review its scheme as a condition of a funding settlement agreed with central government after the pandemic upturned London’s finances. First announcements from the review are expected on Friday.
The drivers’ strike is the first staged by Aslef across the whole Underground network in eight years. Finn Brennan, Aslef organiser on the Underground, said the strike was not about pay but ensuring any changes to conditions and pensions were agreed with unions, with the government seeking to make “staff fill the hole it has made in TfL’s budget”.
About 10,000 RMT members at stations are holding a concurrent strike, the seventh across the capital in just over a year. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch urged mayor Sadiq Khan to call off the pensions review and halt a recruitment freeze that will eventually mean 600 fewer station staff.
Lynch said Khan and TfL had become “dependent on striking deals with a spiteful administration” and should “change course and join with RMT in campaigning for the funding that TfL needs”.
Khan said he had made it clear to ministers that the terms of the settlement “had the potential to lead to industrial action – putting London’s economic recovery at risk”.
Disruption will continue on the tube network into Thursday morning, when a national rail strike by the RMT at major operators will also affect other train services into London, including the outer stretches of the Elizabeth line.