June 10, 2009 / 11:12 AM / 10 years ago

Londoners struggle to work as rail strike starts

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Angry commuters endured rush-hour chaos on Wednesday morning as a 48-hour strike shut down most of the capital’s underground rail network, causing near gridlock on major roads.

Commuters queue for buses outside a closed entrance to Victoria underground station in London, June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

Faced with closed stations and enormous queues for buses, millions of people either walked, cycled or even roller-skated into work.

Struggling passengers, who had little sympathy for the striking rail workers, grumbled about the infrequency of buses, despite promises of extra services by the organizing authority, Transport for London (TfL). Doctor Kalpa Desilva, 27, traveling from the East End to central London said the disruption had added an extra 30 minutes to his journey.

“If they wanted to help, they could put on extra buses. When one thing collapses the whole network collapses,” he said.

“If everyone started striking whenever there was a bit of grief the whole world would come to a standstill.”

Finance adviser James Davis, 24, echoed that sentiment.

“It’s really annoying. I think they’re not really achieving anything by it (striking),” he said.

Sinead Rocha, 20, a research assistant said: “It’s pretty annoying. I don’t know why it needs to go on for two days. I’m also really concerned about getting home.”

TfL arranged taxi-sharing at major rail termini and laid on free river services and guided commuter cycle routes.

James Slaughter, 27, an investment banker at Canary Wharf, the city’s newest financial center, along the River Thames, said: “I’ll take the boat, so it won’t affect my journey too badly.”

The 250-mile underground rail network normally runs over 500 trains at peak hours and carries some 3.5 million passengers a day.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which called the action over jobs and pay, failed to reach an agreement with Tube bosses at last-ditch talks on Tuesday.

The strike, which officially ends at 7 p.m. on Thursday, is likely to cause widespread disruption into Friday morning.

It will also hit fans traveling to Wembley Stadium on Wednesday evening for England’s World Cup football qualifier against Andorra.

(Additional reporting by Paul Lauener and Phakamisa Ndzamela)

Editing by Steve Addison

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