Boxing Day was a bit of a hectic day for shoppers due to a strike by drivers on the London Underground. Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) union members walked out for 24 hours after a 9:1 vote in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay. A lot of train services were disrupted, and more bus services were launched to replace them. Transport for London (TfL) said little to no services would be running on a majority of the lines after 9pm on Christmas Day, while the London Overground wouldn’t be running any services. It urged travellers to check the status of Tube services before going out.
TfL said rail services would vary during Boxing Day depending on available resources. The Victoria, Bakerloo and Central lines were offering services to central London; limited services were running on the Jubilee, Circle, Northern, District, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines; shuttle services were being operated on the Piccadilly line between Hammersmith and Heathrow Airport terminals, as well as between Cockfosters and Arnos Grove; operations were also running on the Docklands Light Railway, for the exception of between Beckton and Canning Town, as well as Bank and Shadwell.
Extra buses were operating services for shoppers travelling to the West End and Westfield in the west and east of London. The 700 bus routes in the capital have, otherwise, been running a Sunday schedule. Vehicles moving into central London are exempt from the congestion charge during the holidays, while Westminster charges for parking on the street have also been suspended.
This is the third consecutive time Tube drivers have held a strike on Boxing Day, the first day of store sales after Christmas. A spokesman for the ASLEF union said that their members have voted more than 90% in favour of industrial action on the day for three years in a row. This clearly shows a big problem, but London Underground is refusing to deal with the issue – nor will it treat the dispute seriously. Officials said last year that they would start negotiations in the first quarter of 2012. However, this didn’t actually happen until just a few weeks ago. The spokesman added that the talks haven’t even offered anything.
London Underground chief operating officer Howard Collins has slammed the union for commanding that they be paid twice as much for doing the same work. The ASLEF leadership’s scandalous actions are an attempt to hold travellers at ransom and show that they have a total disregard for customers. He added that, while there will be disruption, they would run as many services as they could, which would be supported by the 700 bus routes in the capital.
Despite the reported disruption, the New West End Company said the walkout didn’t do much to supress the appetite for sales shopping. Retailers planned for the disruption by having free coaches on hand so that workers could be in their stores by 7am. With 800,000 people predicted to hit Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, the company predicted shops in the area would make £50 million on the day. This is slightly more than last year. The company added that there are more overseas shoppers this year, which also helps because they spend up to ten times as much as average UK shoppers.