Commuter scooter

Tube strikes: what a difference a half-century makes

If you don’t live in London, look away now. If you do, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about: the awful frustration caused by a Tube strike. Instead of the normal journey into work, it’s extra time spent queuing – usually in the pouring rain – for the replacement bus services. Or, if you drive in yourself, it’s extra time spent queuing behind the replacement bus services. The roads of one of the world’s most congested cities are more congested than usual when Tube workers decide to lay down their uniforms.

But if you had to contend with the RMT’s latest round of industrial action, in early February, here’s a compensatory fact for you: it was probably worse thirty years ago. We’ve excavated a newspaper report on a rail and subway strike in 1982. Sounds like it was a pretty nasty day for motorists:

“Rush-hour traffic began rumbling into London as early as 4 a.m. today, the second day of a combined rail and subway strike that caused the worst traffic jams in the city’s history…

…An estimated 600,000 cars jammed the city and a 13-mile traffic jam blocked the highway leading into the city from the west…”

And the video at the top of this post? It has footage of the traffic nightmare created by the Tube strikes of 1962. As the voiceover intones, “traffic from south of the Thames was soon bumper-to-bumper.” But it wasn’t all stony-faced gridlock. The report also shows a man jogging to work in, erm, his underwear and a bowler hat. And even the London authorities went out of their way to make things better: they let cars park “almost anywhere”, including in Horse Guards Parade.

Might be an idea for when the next strike strikes.



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