OPINION - Sadiq Khan’s no-strike promises for London Tube are haunting him now

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OPINION - Sadiq Khan’s no-strike promises for London Tube are haunting him now
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Before becoming mayor, Sadiq Khan loved making big, bold promises. Some have come back to haunt him — not least a comment from 2016 about doing all he could “to make sure there are zero days of strikes” on the Tube.

This week there will be two 24-hour strikes — and severe disruption the following morning. The RMT union, which is calling 10,000 members out on strike, says the Tube will be effectively closed tomorrow and Thursday. TfL admits “there may be no services” on either day.

Some trains may run. But most stations will be closed. TfL has, probably for the first time ever, advised Londoners to work from home if they can.

What disruption can we expect? The buses will run, as will mainline trains. The weather looks decent on both days, so many will cycle.

Just as London got on with life when Storm Eunice wreaked havoc, so will we cope with a Tube strike — even one which, by my research, will be the most severe since 2017.

Two years into the pandemic, a few more days at the kitchen table with a laptop is no hardship.

There have been strikes on 50 days since Mr Khan became mayor, according to City Hall’s Conservatives. Mr Khan uses a different calculation. Always a stickler for facts, he claims a “70 per cent reduction in days lost through strike action” in comparison with the eight years of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty.

That involves calculating the number of Tube staff shifts that are unoccupied due to industrial action — not the number of trains that end up running.

And, for the record, Mr Khan now argues: “I did not make a promise of zero strikes” (but rather a promise to roll up his sleeves to try to make this happen).

I have every sympathy for Tube workers seeking to protect their pensions and working conditions. It’s a tough job, one I’ve never fancied myself, with unforgiving shift patterns and an unforgiving public.

The biggest loser will be TfL — AKA the biggest contributor (£375m a year) to the TfL staff pension fund. It may lose £20 million in fares.

The daily commute is not something many long to reinstate. TfL’s finances are unlikely ever to recover to pre-pandemic levels. The world has changed. TfL and the RMT both need to bear that in mind.

What do you think about this week’s Tube strikes? Let us know in the comments below.

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