Train strikes have cost London £180 million in a single week


“week of hell” of rail strikes will have cost the capital’s economy an estimated £180 million, City economists warned on Friday.

Simon French, chief economist at City brokers Panmure Gordon, said the national impact of strikes every day on the first working week of the year will have been around £625 million – but London will have been hit far harder than other regions.

The streets of much of central London – particularly the City which is heavily dependent on trains bringing in office workers from the commuter belt – have been largely deserted this week with hundreds of thousands opting to work from home.

Friday was set to see the lowest numbers heading into central London, due to the start of a second 48-hour walkout by the RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train companies and the post-pandemic trend of Fridays being the least popular day for commuting to the office.

Only about one in five trains were running. Marylebone station, a key commuter route for workers living in north-west London and the Chilterns, was among those closed.

Lucy Watkins, 44, a finance worker who was hoping to get a train to Banbury, said: “It just seems incessant. It’s been a week of hell. In my job I need to travel to see clients. Every day there seems to be a strike it’s going to kill the economy.”

RMT members on the picket line at Euston station on Friday

/ PA

Jason Lewin, 51, who works in publishing, described the strikes as “embarrassing” for Britain.

He added: “We used to laugh at strikes in the likes of France and Italy where strikers held the country to ransom, but that is us now. Everyone wants to start the New Year on the front foot but instead we are grinding to a halt.

“I think a lot of people are at the end of their tether with this now. This is a miserable end to a miserable week.”

Mohammed Darwish, 34, a health worker said: “I work in a clinic and need to see people face to face, I cannot work from home. I thought there would be at least some trains today but now I will have to get my car. That’s bad for the environment. These strikes are badly hitting people in caring professions like me.”

Train firms such as Southeastern and London North Eastern Railways apologised to passengers for the disruption. Most firms were running a skeleton service, with the last services departing around 6pm.

The eastern and western branches of the Elizabeth line will close at 5.30pm, while the last London Overground rains will stop at 6.30pm.

There will be no trains in or out of King’s Cross this weekend due to engineering works.

The hospitality sector has been once again the hardest hit but retailers have also lost out badly. Trade body UKHospitality fears that a further £100 million of business was lost this week in London alone.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on Friday claimed that the Government’s plans to introduce minimum service levels during strikes showed ministers were “losing the argument”.

Speaking outside Euston station, he said: “There is something desperately wrong with the way this railway is being run. But there is something desperately wrong with the way all public services are being run, and that’s why the workforce in these services are in rebellion now.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan, whose train driver members went on strike on Thursday, said it was “inevitable” that further strikes would be held unless the deadlock was broken.

“The situation is getting worse and my members now want to go harder and faster because of the lack of progress,” he said.

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