Today’s tube strike in London made me really, really angry.

It wasn’t the fact that I had to get up at 4.30am and sit on a dirty, stinking nightbus just to get to work on time. It wasn’t the fact that at the end of my twelve hour shift, I had to walk the two miles to Liverpool Street to catch the overground train home. It wasn’t the fact that my arduous journey meant that I missed the start of the England football match. It wasn’t even the fact that the tube workers could all be watching said football match from the comfort of their local pub with loads of beer, safe in the knowledge they don’t have to get up for work tomorrow.

No, none of those things were what made me REALLY angry.

What made me really angry was the fact that by rush hour, the streets of central London – the streets that my ambulances need to get to critically ill people – were utterly gridlocked with people trying to get to work. There was just so much traffic that no one was going anywhere – not even an ambulance on blue lights and sirens. While people tried to get out of the way and the drivers are permitted to break the rules of the road when on lights, there just wasn’t room for the crews to get through. And, of course, ambulances are only supposed to use blue lights when they are on way to a call or when a patient whose condition is life threatening is on board. It took one of my crews AN HOUR AND A HALF to take an assault victim from the scene of the crime to the local hospital – a journey which should have taken around fifteen minutes.

It would only have taken one call for the tube strike to end in disaster for us. A car accident we couldn’t cover, a cardiac arrest we couldn’t reach. We do have motorcycles, bicycles and cars that can get into tight spots, but anyone in a life threatening condition needs hospital, and for that you need to be able to get an ambulance to them. I watched my screen and held my breath, crossing my fingers and praying that nothing would happen in those gridlocked areas.

It was my lucky day. Nothing did. We got ambulances to all the calls without too much delay, and the delays in getting to hospital were an inconvenience rather than a disaster. But it could have been different. And this is why the tube strike made me very very angry, and why I have absolutely no sympathy with the tube workers and in fact hope they DON’T get their pay rise. If anything, they should be penalised for inconveniencing and endangering the public.

(Sidenote. In the midst of the chaos, a man committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. I wonder if he got a certain bitter pleasure by putting a halt to one of the few means of transport remaining – a final two fingers up at the world – or if he was so disturbed he merely found the tube strike an inconvenience because there weren’t many trains to jump under. Either way, there is a certain irony about a “one under” in the middle of a tube strike.)

Published Jun 10, 2009 - 18 Comments and counting

18 Comments on “Strike Day”
  1. alice Says:

    My colleague was on that train and he had a horrible grisly journey of three and a half hours home :/

    I know it's so horrendously tragic people go to this lengths to not live anymore, but at the same time it's so effing selfish.

  2. LargeBrotherCCTV Says:

    I can't believe that they are turning down a deal that seems so reasonable. Maybe I'm missing something? I'd kill for 1% above inflation. Council workers are looking at 0.5% once the unions and councils stop arguing. It took them till February 2009 for the april 2008 increase so I'm not holding my breath.

    It feels so selfish to be angry at them but its so damned irresponsible of them. I'm glad I live in Smalltown away from the hustle of the big city. I even had a rant myself about it.

  3. Suzi Brent Says:

    I keep thinking I'm missing something too. Tube drivers actually earn a pretty good wage (far better than, for example, emergency medical dispatchers). I might have a tiny piece of sympathy if they were actually striking for something worthwhile – though I'd probably have lost it over the course of today.

  4. Suzi Brent Says:

    I think some of the time the person is so disturbed that they don't even think of the effect they are having on anyone else, and the rest they think that the world has treated them badly, so they can get a little bit of revenge on the way out. I just try to remember that whatever inconvenience and annoyance it causes to the people travelling, it is nothing compared with the pain that inspired them to do it.

  5. Matt Says:

    It was the third-to-last train that the person jumped under before the strike started. Sadly they were successful in committing suicide.

  6. farmer Says:

    Its interesting, as in my local area the binmen are on strike, and they've attracted about as much sympathy as Mr Reynolds has with the tube-drivers (which i think is perfectly reasonable).

    Its interesting, as the salary that the tube staff are getting is about that that the bin-men are getting, yet they still give the impression that everyone (i.e. everyone but themselves) are earning massive salarys for very littler effort. I don't work in emergency medicine, or anything even remotely as worthy, yet I still have to ensure my continuing employment is worth the salary I'm paid, and still I'm glad to have a job I enjoy.

    it almost seems like everything as gone full circle, and that majority are working for fairly corporate entities, yet still have more 'ethics' than the unions.

  7. Laurence Says:

    I think its selfish at the moment for wanting a pay rise, a stupid credit crunch is happening and even hard worked student paramedics like me are finding it hard, i'm not allowed to strike but maybe thats what LAS staff should do, disrupt London and bring it to a stand still and people give in. Tube Drivers need some realility. I say they should come to Deptford will show how to work for there money.

  8. James Says:

    As a railwayman myself, one unders are not nice. If the juice is turned of in time, then you have to pick up peices of meat. If the juice was still on, then you pick up cooked peices of meat. I remember when I started that a old-hand told me of one where a woman was hit by a locomotive at high-speed. He had to walk a very long way with a plastic bag to get all the bits. The head was found down an embankment. The driver and other rail staff involved will have to live with that for the rest of their lives. All the driver can do is slam on the emergency brakes, hold on the horn and close his eyes. You can even feel the bump when you go over it.

  9. Twitted by herrdoktorc Says:

    [...] This post was Twitted by herrdoktorc – [...]

  10. Scott Says:

    Blame Boris, not those trying to protect their income and families in a recession.

  11. Chapati Says:

    Urgh, it got really bad yesterday on the few tubes running :| Fingers crossed today goes ok for you…

    I was on a train where someone 'went under' the other day…It was…upsetting for everyone involved, especially the poor driver…

  12. Martin Says:

    No, lets not blame boris. Whatever he may or may not have done he hasn't made tube workers act utterly unreasonably and selfishly and nor has he forced them to live in a fantasy world. Tube workers have turned down a far, far better deal than most of us get and what they are asking for is only a short stop away from demanding free kittens to be provided to play with during a 3 hour lunch break.

    Tube workers cannot demand a delusional and outrageous pay deal and then litterely risk lives and completely disrupt millions of people when they're given a reality check

  13. Sam Says:

    I was in Sydney once when the transport workers went on strike. All the trains and buses carried on running though – they protested by letting everyone ride for free for the day. Everyone wins!

    Why can't people in the UK be that clever?

  14. Charles Says:

    I bet you don't get good odds at predicting a strike sometime in 2012 – along the lines of safety concerns for the athletes etc…

  15. Suzi Brent Says:

    Actually, that must have been a different call – this one was right in the middle of the strike. But sadly, same outcome.

  16. Suzi Brent Says:

    We can blame Boris for a lot of things but to blame him for the strikes is ridiculous. Almost everyone is suffering because of the recession and no one else is going on strike. When I'm not earning as much as I would like, I work overtime to bump my pay up! Perhaps the tube workers should try that!

  17. Suzi Brent Says:

    Brilliant idea!

  18. ANdrew Says:

    Yes the tube strike made the roads bad perfect times to put the FIT Teams into use as they could get through no problem on foot

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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