London kept calm and carried on during tube strike

London’s patchy tube strike complicated journeys for many in the capital on 5-6 February, but major events went ahead at the capital’s main conference venues.

“There were no major reports of events being cancelled,” said Grass Roots Meetings & Events MD Des McLaughlin, speaking of his agency’s business.

“Due to the threat of the strike we did advise some clients to reschedule events that were booked for this week. These were ones where tube travel would have been hard to avoid without a great deal of inconvenience.

“The key was to plan ahead and the minute we saw the threat we were making contingency plans. Generally speaking clients don’t want their delegates arriving feeling flustered and stressed after a difficult journey. So unless the date of an event is carved in stone, they’d far rather move to a time when the transport system is operating as per normal.”

Emma Hutter, Client Services Manager at venue catering specialists, the Crown Group, said some of the conferences booked in for 5 February had changed the timings to allow for late arrivals.

“This was accommodated by offering additional tea/coffee for a longer reception and check-in period,” she told CN.

“Some events, however, had a shorter lunch break to finish on time, allowing delegates to leave and travel to their forwarding destinations.”

Hutter added that the organiser of one event offered to subsidise a taxi service for departing delegates.

“There is an overall impact to all our business activity, however, we have tried to plan ahead and make suggestions and assist wherever we can.”

Robin Parker, GM at the Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, described the tube strike is “a huge inconvenience”, but said everyone made it to work on time at the venue for what was a busy day and evening.

“The Underground is an important part of London’s infrastructure and any disruption can be damaging, however it was great to see both staff and clients making such a great effort to overcome the difficulties.”

The Business Travel Show which was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, ran alongside Hospitality Technology Europe and the Travel Technology Europe Show at Earls Court this week and still claimed good visitor numbers despite the strike.

And Excel London reports it used its close working relationship with transport stakeholders TfL and the DLR to ensure events went ahead.

“Regardless of whether there is a strike, we provide support for organisers of events at Excel London. The tube strike was inconvenient, however the DLR ran a normal service to the venue which worked well. ICE Totally Gaming is the world’s largest and most successful gaming and casino event – visitors came from all over the world by plane, train, bus, car and DLR to what was a well attended event – the show truly did go on,” Excel London Executive Director Jeremy Rees told CN.

Transport for London (TfL) said they had run services on most lines and Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy said 86 per cent of Londoners who usually paid for travel using their Oyster cards had done so as normal. RMT union leader Bob Crow, for his part, claimed the strike had been “solid”.

Nevertheless, over a quarter of London’s workers took advantage of technology that allows them to work as usual from other locations, according to official data from video conference provider Blue Jeans Network.
The figures, collected from 900 Blue Jeans users in London revealed a 27 per cent rise in video conference meetings on the strike days, compared to the same days in previous weeks.

The findings also threw up some interesting statistics in regards to the technology used to conduct video conferences during the strike. The majority (84%) of conference participants joined using the web browser on their laptops, as they set up shop at home, with smaller numbers using video conferencing hardware provided by their work place (18%) and their mobile phones and tablets (4%).

Blue Jeans Network Vice-President and GM for EMEA James Campanini said: “While making it into the office by any means possible during occurrences like this week’s tube strike has long been the norm, professional technology solutions now mean the best option for many workers is to work from home.

“To minimise the impact of travel disruption and maximise the productivity of workers unable to make it to the office, employers need to provide their staff with the suitable enterprise quality tools and policies to allow them to work remotely – whether that’s at home, a coffee shop or even a stranded train.

“While tools like telephone and email have long been part and parcel of remote working, they do not provide the much needed face-to-face collaboration modern workers crave, especially when unexpectedly stuck at home for a number of days.

“As the need for remote working increases – strike induced or not – it’s more important than ever those organisations have the correct technologies in place to make working from anywhere as seamless a transition from the office desk as possible,” Campanini added.

Do you have a news story for CN? Email: pcolston@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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