By Victor Jack
LONDON (Reuters) – Central London shops and businesses hoping to receive a much-needed boost from Black Friday sales were hit by disruption to the tube network as drivers held their biggest strike since 2018.
The 24-hour strike, which started at 0430 GMT, led to the suspension of the Piccadilly, and Waterloo and City lines, and delays on the Jubilee, Central, Victoria and Northern lines.
The walkout of 2,000 Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) members came after disagreements over TfL’s plans to make tube drivers take on shifts at night.
The strikes targeted the five lines where TfL used to employ dedicated Night Tube drivers, with the Waterloo and City line also suspended as it shares many of its drivers with the Central line.
The Friday and Saturday Night Tube service was suspended during the pandemic. It was due to restart with a limited service on Saturday.
Joe Swaffham, 36, who commutes from North Greenwich to Moorgate to work for a maintenance firm, said his journey took twice as long and made him 45 minutes late for work.
“Commuters were being less forgiving when trying to get on trains and I got pushed two-throw down the platform – luckily the Jubilee line has a glass wall for safety,” he said.
“But I think the train workers shouldn’t have to be forced into hours they didn’t sign up for,” he added.
Shops in central London said the strike could hurt sales on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
“The timing of the strike is particularly disappointing and is a real kick in the teeth for Central London’s hospitality and retail sector,” said Ros Morgan, Chief Executive Heart of London Business Alliance, which represents 500 businesses in London’s West End.
TfL said there were no plans to hold talks with RMT leaders. “We remain open to talking but there’s no concrete plans so far,” a spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Victor Jack; editing by Paul Sandle and Guy Faulconbridge)