There’s a strike on. London Underground (LU) is run by Transport for London (TfL). Some LU ticket office staff belong to the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), some to the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA). The TSSA claims 953 jobs face being cut if all 278 London Underground ticket offices are closed and machines put in in their place. They also point out that 45% of supervisor jobs face being cut – a move that would see fewer staff ensuring passenger safety, and some stations becoming ‘ghost stations.’ In 2010 Boris Johnson, as part of his election campaign, claimed ticket windows would never be closed. He is now not only backtracking but, the TSSA claims, refusing to meet them to talk about it. Meanwhile, RMT are leading with the slogan ‘Every Job Matters’ claiming 750 jobs are to go, £33m of LU cuts are being made from 2013-2014 and £45m worth of cuts are planned for 2015, despite a 4.2% ticket price increase. Not all workers are on strike, with some stations remaining open, but TfL is under fire today for reporting stations being open when they are not. One transport commentator said,
“Those who are striking can’t do anything but strike, because the unions can’t agree to ticket window closures and getting people out to help customers, otherwise what are their members paying for? So it’s all stupid and futile because soon no-one will buy at ticket windows and they know that.”
For ‘balance,’ here’s what David Cameron had to say on his Facebook page:
The Guardian have an excellent live blog covering the strike.
My opinion? Well, imbued with a sense of what is right from watching Made in Dagenham on BBC iPlayer last night (an excellent film), I’d say if my job were at risk I’d go on strike too. Also, the idea of cutting staff that help keep people from getting crushed to death at rush hour is more than a little disconcerting. Plus, I was at Victoria on Monday morning and the staff were all being immensely helpful and smiling in the face of adversity. So I like them and want them all to keep their jobs.
In the meantime, the concern for many Londoners will be how to get to work without using the Tube. There are several suggestions, ranging from using their legs, to cycling, and of course buses, which bizarrely the BBC – quoting the poet Brian Howard who died in the 50s – said jokingly, nobody over 30 would be seen dead on.
But their suggestion of staying with a wealthy centre-dwelling friend was an interesting one. Most people don’t have one of those. But budget accommodation is readily available, and if you think that the average cab fare from home to work is likely around £30, getting a room for the night near work may not actually be such a crazy idea…
Tune Hotels very kindly put me up in their King’s Cross hotel at the end of last year. If you book in advance, you can get a room for £45 – £50. As with any budget hotel, it is advisable to bring your own toiletries as comfort packages cost extra, but the rooms are clean and light, with excellent views and comfy beds. They have hotels in Westminster, Liverpool Street, Paddington, and King’s Cross in London.
Understandably, people love to make jokes when you mention the name. That aside, EasyHotels are probably the cheapest ‘know-what-you’re-getting’ hotels in London. I’ve visited quite a few of their hotels, and can confirm that on the whole the rooms are tiny. And windowless rooms may not suit claustrophobics. But at £29 a night at their cheapest, you can’t complain that much. I paid it. Went to Floripa down the road for the night with friends. Although there were a couple of suspicious hairs, and a piece of skin I hoped had fallen off my own foot (sorry) the hotel I stayed in at the Old Street location was clean, and contrary to the norm, it was huge because I’d struck gold with an accessible room on the ground floor. EasyHotels have locations at South Kensington, Luton, Paddington, Earl’s Court, Victoria, Barbican/Old Street and Heathrow.
Here’s a fun idea. While the strike’s on – why not have teams from the office staying in centrally located apartments? CityMarque kindly put a group of bloggers, including myself, up in their apartments during World Travel Market 2014. You can see Peter Parkorr’s review here. There was space for six people if four people shared the two double bedrooms, and two people took the double sofa bed in the open plan living room and kitchen area (which was as comfortable as the double beds). The Goodge St location we stayed at has apartments with two double rooms starting at £221 a night that would make a stay £55.25 per person per night with four people staying or £36.80 per person per night with six. Although they have an online chat, it will be far easier for you to book online or call. They are fabulously clean, light, comfortable. If you do have a group, this would definitely be my top choice.
So however you are getting to work if you’re based in London, may your journey be smooth, timely and interesting. I’ll be working from home to avoid the tube strike.