Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'You should see the hell a Tube strike unleashes'

In The Red
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The Independent Online

Oh, how I laughed. Colleagues huffing and puffing their way into the office, complaining of taxi queues stretching round the block, of London buses mobbed, of traffic gridlocked. I, in the early stages of marathon training, had run to work – a transport method which proved both stress-free and dirt-cheap, and subsequently became a regular part of my commute.

Over the months, it has saved me countless amounts on unnecessary Tube rides. At the time, I hailed it as a "silver lining" to the strikes. In fact, it was more than that: it was a blessing in disguise.

Last year, the Tube strikes worked in my favour. They showed me something new, a new way to save money. This year? Rather a different story. For those of you who don't follow the capital's transport news with the frenzied vigilance of us parochial urbanites, some back story: for 24 hours, beginning on Monday night, London Underground came to a virtual halt. This may sound like a minor incident, but you should see the hell it unleashes.

I should have run in. I could have run in. But – and this really is embarrassingly stupid – I managed to leave my trainers at work. Instead of sitting in my hallway, waiting for use, they were lying in a sweaty tangle beneath my desk.

I realised my error early on: midway through my journey home on Monday night, in fact. I decided against turning around, since strikes were already starting and I felt lucky to have nabbed a spot on my crowded carriage.

Eagerly, I awoke at 6.30 the following morning. Poring over my laptop, I realised there were at least half a dozen routes I could take. The easiest seemed to be a 1hr 15min option from the bus stop directly outside my east London flat. Cautious of the traffic, I left home at 7.45am, allowing a good 2hr 15min to get in for 10am.

Alas, I had underestimated the chaos the Tube strike had caused, placing far too much faith on Boris Johnson's promises of extra buses. It took me three and a half hours to get in, and I managed to spend a good deal along the way: on bottles of water, cups of coffee, extra newspapers to last the duration. It was like going on a long-haul flight, but without the holiday at the end. Apparently, there is to be another strike next month. And for that, I promise you this: I'll be on foot, come rain or shine. Not walking, but running. And I'll spend nothing.

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