London

Tube strike forces commuters on to bikes and buses

  • 7 September 2010
  • From the section London

Commuters marched out of central London's Kings Cross station, armed with their most comfortable walking shoes, A-to-Zs and stiff upper lips.

They were braced for a morning's battle to use the capital's buses and hire bikes with the first in a series of 24-hour strikes by London Underground (LU) staff in full swing.

The strike, in a row over 800 job cuts, began at 1700 BST on Monday but it was the Tuesday morning rush hour when it caused most disruption.

And the sunny start to the day seemed to have done little to lift the commuters' damp spirits.

Marie Harrington, 33, from St Albans, was frantically trying to fathom a map that had been given to her by a LU staff member.

Hoping to navigate her way to Bank station for a human resources seminar, she had been told by Tube staff that the Northern Line was running but she was unable to get on a train.

"We just queued to try to get on a Tube but it was heaving, so we've canned that," she said.

"The bus queues are horrendous and the taxi rank has a queue of hundreds.

"Lord knows how we'll get there."

Meanwhile, as the taxi queue snaked around the mainline station, a worried looking 39-year-old Scott Decant, who had packed his cases to fly home to Australia, had been planning to get a taxi to Heathrow.

"I didn't know there was a strike on so I'm cutting it fine," he said.

Buses 'packed'

Under the shadow of St Pancras station's gargantuan gothic-style clock tower, actress Lauriline Romuald, 24, had just arrived on the Eurostar from Paris.

Image caption Hundreds of commuters queued at bus stops outside Kings Cross station

She said she had "no idea" how to get to her hotel in west London's Queen's Park, but had sympathy for the strikers.

"I'm for the strike," she said.

"We also have a strike happening in Paris and I think it's good to defend what you believe in."

But tired-eyed Shabhab Ahmed, 24, from Walthamstow in east London, who had just finished working a night shift stocking shelves at St Pancras' M&S store, was less supportive of the strikers.

"It's a bit of a joke," he said.

"I don't know how I'll get home. Who knows which bus I'll get on - they're all packed."

While RMT union members protested outside outside Kings Cross Tube station, nearby LU worker Tom Page was helping to direct frustrated commuters.

'Ill-timed'

He had chosen to come into work "to get people moving", he said.

"When the rest of the country are having to deal with cuts and an austerity mood, the strike is ill-timed", the 28-year-old said.

Image caption Alastair McDonnell missed out on getting a London cycle hire scheme bike at Kings Cross

The nearest cycle hire docking station to Kings Cross, on Belgrave Road, was empty before 0800 BST.

And at 0930 BST, a frustrated Alastair McDonnell was still waiting for a bike to become available.

"I'll probably have to walk to Marble Arch instead," said the 32-year-old surveyor from Harpenden.

"The Tube staff may have their reasons, but there are other ways to make their point without striking."

Meanwhile, as taxis and cars became gridlocked outside the station those going past on fold-up cycles, a skateboard and even rollerskates showed less conventional commuting approaches were probably the most successful.

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