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  • Commuters queue to get on the London Underground.

    Commuters queue to get on the London Underground. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 September 2015

Researchers found that the strike forced people to find more efficient routes to work.

Strikes on the London subway system, regarded by many as disruptive, actually help people save time and money, a new study from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford found.

When workers on the underground transport system, affectionately known as the Tube, began industrial action, commuters were forced to find alternative ways to get to work, with many finding that these new routes proved faster and cheaper than the original, according to the research.

The investigators analysed data from travelers’ plastic multiple-use “Oyster card” tickets from the February 2014 Tube strike, measuring whether they went back to their original route once it had ended. About one in 20 people stuck to their new route, which included walking, biking, skating or even taking the Thames ferry to work.

A woman skates to work in central London during the Tube strike

A woman skates to work in central London during the Tube strike. | Photo: AFP

A cost-benefit analysis revealed that time saved over the next four years will exceed time lost by travelers during the strike.

“Our findings illustrate that people might get stuck with suboptimal decisions because they don’t experiment enough,” said co-author Dr. Ferdinand Rauch from Oxford’s Department of Economics.

The findings come as the U.K. parliament debates a new trade union law, calling for 50 percent turnout for votes on industrial action, and 14 days’ notice, instead of seven.

Further Tube strikes in August this year, demanding better pay and conditions ahead of new plans to bring in a weekend 24-hour service, divided the English capital, with almost equal numbers sympathizing with workers and criticizing the disruption.

Since becoming mayor of London, Conservative Boris Johnson has not met with unions.

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