Londoners endured a terrible commute to work in the rain this morning amid Tube strikes and major delays to one of the city’s most vital train lines.
Urgent track repairs on the TfL Rail line between Heathrow and Paddington in West London caused disruptions, leading to crowded platforms and packed carriages.
To compound the misery, the Central and Waterloo & City lines were suspended due to a strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and drivers’ union Aslef.
Meanwhile, passengers using South Western Railway services to and from London Waterloo, the country’s busiest railway station, were delayed by a points failure.
Commuters wait under umbrellas for a train at Ilford TfL Rail station in East London today
Commuters try to board a train on a packed platform at Liverpool Street station this morning
Striking workers pose outside White City station on the Central Line in West London today
Tube workers on the picket line at West Ruislip station in West London this morning
The RMT said the Tube dispute was over a ‘comprehensive breakdown’ in industrial relations, a failure to employ enough drivers, abuse of agreed procedures and the victimisation of a trade union member.
The action crippled Tube services this morning, causing travel chaos for commuters and other passengers – with those on the fringes of London especially badly hit.
The RMT said its members were ‘standing rock solid’ this morning at the start of the 24 hours of action, which follows a Piccadilly Line strike being called off yesterday.
Passengers catching flights at Heathrow faced a double whammy of disruption, as they were warned a ‘technical issue’ affecting lighting could affect their journeys.
Britain’s largest airport said there was a problem with the lighting on the runways early this morning, although it was resolved shortly after 6am.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union strike in East London this morning
Vintage Routemaster buses were brought in today to help with the higher demand. Pictured is one of them on the 66 route between Romford and Leytonstone in East London this morning
Alternative routes: Urgent track repairs on the TfL Rail line between Heathrow and Paddington in West London caused disruptions, leading to crowded platforms and packed carriages
SWR said it had been informed by Network Rail that a set of points has failed at London Waterloo so that three platforms were not in use.
It said: ‘We are expecting cancellations to some services arriving at London Waterloo this morning, as well as delays because of the lost capacity of platforms.
‘We strongly recommend you check your journey before you travel this morning.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT members are standing absolutely rock solid and united the length of the Central Line this morning as they send out the clearest possible signal that they will not be bullied into accepting a wholesale undermining of workplace justice and rights.
‘Industrial relations along the Central Line have been at breaking point for some time now and the failure of the management to address the issues, and a conscious decision to up the ante by attempting to single out and pick off individual members of staff, has tipped the situation over the edge and has led to the strike action today.
‘The union is angry and frustrated that the management side have squandered a golden opportunity over the past week to resolve the issues at the heart of the dispute through the talks process.
‘Today’s action is the clearest possible demonstration to tube bosses of the level of anger on the job and it’s down to them to take the situation seriously and engage in genuine talks around reaching a solution to the current disputes.’
Finn Brennan, of Aslef, said: ‘Management’s pig-headed intransigence will mean major disruption on the Underground, but the issues underlying this dispute – fair treatment at work and complying with agreements – aren’t just confined to a couple of areas.
‘The Aslef executive is to discuss resolutions from our branches on the Hammersmith & City and Northern Lines asking to be balloted for action, with other branches set to follow.
‘Unless there is a rapid change of approach from management, working inside existing agreements instead of trying to circumvent or ‘reinterpret’ them, then the likelihood is there will be a network-wide shutdown in the run-up to Christmas.’
Nigel Holness, managing director of London Underground, said: ‘The strike action called by Aslef is totally unjustifiable.
‘The union is demanding the reinstatement of a Central line driver sacked over a serious safety breach after deliberately opening the doors of a train in a tunnel.
‘We always strive to run a reliable service for our customers but our commitment to the safety of both customers and staff is absolute and something we will never compromise on.
‘I urge Aslef to call off this entirely unnecessary strike action which will only cause disruption to our customers.’
Delay misery for hundreds of London-bound airline passengers as landing strip lights at Heathrow fail to turn on
Flights to Heathrow Airport were delayed by up to three hours today after a ‘technical issue’ affected lighting on the runways.
The problem left some London-bound passengers stranded at US airports, with those travelling from Las Vegas, Miami and New York among those affected.
Some passengers compared the issue to an incident in the 1990 thriller Die Hard 2, which sees terrorists turn off the runway lights at an airport in Washington.
Twitter user Shaan Khan wrote from New York: ‘We are on BA116 and ground staff at JFK Airport not opening the door so we can talk to someone. Pilot growing impatient as are passengers.’
Passenger Davey Hunt posted: ‘On the ground in Atlanta due to Heathrow light failure. The bar is open and I’m not working tomorrow so not that fussed.’
Heathrow said the problem was resolved by 6.05am, but that customers should still check their flight status with their airline before travelling.
Nearly one in seven flights due to land at Heathrow between 6am and 8.59am were delayed by more than 15 minutes, according to figures from aviation data firm FlightStats. This included 11 flights delayed by more than 45 minutes.
London Heathrow Airport flights were delayed after a runway lighting issue (file picture)
The worst delay was to a United Airlines flight from Newark, near New York, which was operating three hours and five minutes behind schedule.
Out of 64 scheduled departures between 6am and 7.59am, there was one cancellation and five flights were delayed.
A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘Our engineering teams are investigating a technical issue with the lighting system for the airport’s runways.
‘We have activated our contingency plans and both runways are currently open and operational, although we anticipate there will be some delays at the airport throughout this morning.
‘For the latest information, passengers should check their flight status with their airlines before travelling to the airport. We apologise for any impact this might have on our passengers.’
A spokesman for British Airways said: ‘There was an issue with Heathrow Airport’s airfield lighting during the night.
‘Contingency plans were quickly activated and we plan to operate our full schedule today, albeit with some delays.
‘We’re asking customers that are due to travel with us today to continue to monitor ba.com for any updates to their flight.’