Public transport users condemn ‘seriously flawed’ London climate protest

By Edd Dracott, Press Association

Some travellers affected by the disruption caused to public transport by climate protesters in London have condemned the demonstrations as “seriously flawed”.

And London Mayor Sadiq Khan suggested the Extinction Rebellion protests are “inadvertently” driving people away from using public transport to use taxis instead.

“The best way to address the issue of climate change is to encourage people to use public transport or to walk and cycle so inadvertently the protesters are driving people away from public transport to use minicabs and other things,” Mr Khan told Sky News.

Music student Anouska Stahlmann said the protests have forced her mother and elderly grandparents to walk across London to find alternative transport.

The 20-year-old’s mother has lupus, while her grandparents, who are in their 70s, were travelling from their home in Buckinghamshire to see Ms Stahlmann’s sister perform in a play in south-east London.

“Considering my grandma has sciatica and my grandad has asthma, disruption on the Tubes is not an option,” she told the Press Association. “They really risk being stuck in a tunnel.”

Ms Stahlmann said the trio are now walking across the city to catch a London Overground service.

“I have no issue with wanting to better the environment and we’re fairly conscious of it as a family,” she said. “Their methods, however, are seriously flawed and are not inclusive of people who want to support the cause.

“I find it awful they’re disintegrating into a rent-a-mob mentality really. I’d expect better.”

Two protesters climbed on top of a train and one glued his hand to a window (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Asked whether she felt Extinction Rebellion’s methods are counter-productive, Ms Stahlmann said: “I mean, we’re all being told to use public transport as it’s healthier for the environment but, now, everyone is going to get in their cars instead today because it’s going to be more reliable.”

The protests have included two Extinction Rebellion demonstrators clambering on board the carriage of a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train at Canary Wharf station in east London, with two climbing on to the roof and another gluing his hand to its window.

Sefan White, 24, who works for a company that produces bar snacks in sustainable packaging, was prevented from getting to work by the protesters.

“I’m devastated,” he said. “I’m trying to get to a job now. We’ve got to go round Camden on a 30-pub journey and we’re going to be late now.

“We’re probably going to lose money today.

“They’ve had their picture, fair enough, that’s all you need now. Why is he spending 15 minutes on top of the Tube? Explain that.”

The protests have also faced criticism from a representative for businesses based in London’s West End, who warned disruption caused to the shopping district could cost companies hundreds of millions of pounds.

Jace Tyrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, told Sky News the protest had brought a feeling of “intimidation” and on average caused a 25% drop in spending in the area, adding £12 million less was spent on Tuesday.

A bright pink boat has been parked on Oxford Street in recent days as part of the protests and Mr Tyrell warned the cost to businesses could rise if Oxford Circus and Marble Arch stations are not opened “pretty quickly”.

(Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“What we would like to see is the mayor and the Met to find a more appropriate location in Central London for the protesters to continue their peaceful protest but not hold the West End to ransom,” Mr Tyrell said.

“West End businesses fully support the right to protest but actually this is causing significant damage to our area.”