OPINION - The Standard View: Now we know the real cost of the rail strikes

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

ON the twelfth day of Christmas the rail unions bring the season to an end in the same way they began it — with two days of strikes. The RMT and Aslef between them are bringing London to a standstill today and tomorrow. Business as usual then. Or rather, not. Today this paper publishes figures to show the cost of a week’s strike to London business: £180 million.

That figure gives an idea of what happens when people don’t come to the office, go out shopping, go out to the theatre or go out for a drink. Every sector is affected. And the wider effects on business are less easy to put a figure on, but no less significant. If London is seen as an unreliable place to do business, as no one knows when normal activities will be put on hold at the whim of the RMT, then it loses more of its competitive edge. For shops, restaurants and theatres, the attrition of running rail strikes is one more burden to weather, along with rocketing energy bills.

For the RMT’s Mick Lynch, this is unlikely to put him off his stride. He may take the view that, as Lenin put it, the worse, the better. That is, the more appalling the effects of the strike on the public and on businesses, the greater the pressure on the rail operators and the Government to give the union what it wants. But if people simply give up on rail, it’s not in his members’ interests either.

The Government for its part is hardly helping to resolve matters by its combative rhetoric. This really isn’t the time to threaten to change the law to curb strikes in certain sectors; it simply hardens the unions’ approach. What it should be doing is encouraging meaningful negotiations for a settlement, not impeding them. Meanwhile, as ever, individuals and businesses are left counting the cost.

Crime on the Tube

THE bad news is that there is more crime on public transport even though fewer people are using it. The latest figures from Transport for London show crime is up by eight per cent on the figures before the pandemic — despite a fifth fewer passengers. On the buses, there were 9,237 crimes recorded between April and September last year — a 20 per cent increase. Violent attacks were up 18 per cent in the same time period, to 3,467 incidents.

There is one element of these dispiriting statistics however which indicates some progress. There was an increase of over 80 per cent in the number of cases of sexual harassment of women and girls being reported to the authorities. This is being mostly attributed to the public campaign against harassment on public transport. There are posters across the network asking passengers what they might do to intervene if they see this happening. The scourge of sexual harassment has been allowed to persist unchallenged for far too long. Other measures are needed too; an effective way to curb violent crime is to increase the numbers of transport police on the network. But at least we are making progress in one important respect, trying to make public transport safer for women.

Farewell to Julie’s

JULIE’S, a byword for celebrity guests, good food and comfort, has closed after more than 50 years. It was a destination for locals as well as celebrities, and very much a family business. Its situation wasn’t helped by the chill winds which have killed several big restaurants: it will be missed.