The Tube will be forced to close if Friday’s bus strike creates dangerous overcrowding levels on the already packed service, union barons said today.
They will order staff to stop work – citing workplace Health & Safety regulations – if they believe too many passengers are creating conditions dangerous for themselves and other users.
That could mean staff closing stations or refusing to drive trains if they genuinely believe safety is being put at risk.
Tube bosses said they would have additional staff at stations to cope with the extra passenger numbers.
Nearly 6.5 million journeys are made on London’s buses every day and many passengers will try to use the Tube as their only alternative method of public transport on strike day.
The Tube already carries 3.4 million passengers a day with trains packed to capacity during morning and evening peak times.
Bob Crow, the RMT leader, said the strike will have a “massive impact” on Tube services.
He said the union “has deep concerns about the safety implications of trying to cram hundreds of thousands of extra journeys into a system creaking at the seams and our safety reps will be monitoring the situation closely on Friday.”
The union boss made clear: “Any threat to staff and passenger safety and we will of course take the appropriate action.”
Tube passengers are already “well aware” the service can barely cope with routine demand and the strike will “impact across the board,” he added.
“The situation on Friday could prove the acid test in dealing with the Olympics”
Nigel Holness, London Underground (LU) operations director, said: “London Underground has an excellent safety record and is one of the safest metros in the world, and has well-practised congestion management procedures to deal with large numbers of customers.
“Should this strike go ahead, we will have additional staff in place at key locations on Friday to provide help and information to enable customers to complete their journeys. “
All of our staff are well-trained and fully understand our congestion management plans, and we will be ready to use those procedures if necessary to ensure that we can continue to keep London moving.”
Unite the union has ordered the London-wide bus strike – with the warning of more to follow in the run-up to and during the Olympics – after being refused a bonus for working during the Games.
The union is demanding £500-a-time for 24,000 employees. The amount will increase by £100, as the Evening Standard revealed yesterday, every time there is a strike to make up for that day’s loss of pay.
Up to 800,000 extra passengers will use the buses during the Games meaning a hugely increased workload, the union says.
Leon Daniels, Transport for London’s (TfL’s) managing director of surface transport, condemned both the strike and the increased bonus demand.
He said: “This remains an issue between the private bus operating companies and the bus workers they employ.
“While everyone responsible is working flat out to deliver a successful 2012 Games, the latest threat from Unite clearly demonstrates their continuing attempts to hold the capital’s travelling public to ransom.
“It is extraordinary that Unite now wants the capital’s taxpayers and farepayers to fund its members’ strike action as well.”