LONDON (Reuters) – Stores and businesses in central London hoping to receive a much-needed boost from Black Friday sales have been hit by the disruption of the tube network as drivers stage their biggest strike since 2018.

The 24-hour strike, which began at 04:30 GMT, resulted in the suspension of the Piccadilly, Waterloo and City lines, and delays on the Jubilee, Central, Victoria and Northern lines.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was operating 58% of its regular services.

The walkout of 2,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) came after disagreements over TfL’s plans to put metro drivers to work at night.

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The strikes targeted the five lines where TfL employed dedicated drivers for the night subway, with the Waterloo and City line also being suspended as it shares many of its drivers with the central line.

Friday and Saturday night metro service has been suspended during the pandemic. It was due to restart with limited service on Saturday.

Joe Swaffham, 36, who commutes from North Greenwich to Moorgate to work for a maintenance company, said his commute was twice as long and made him 45 minutes late for work.

“Commuters were less forgiving when trying to get on trains and I was pushed onto the platform twice – luckily the Jubilee line has a glass wall for safety,” he said.

“But I think train workers should not be forced to work hours for which they have not signed up,” he added.

Stores in central London have said the strike could hurt sales on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“The timing of the strike is particularly disappointing and is a real kick in the teeth for central London’s hospitality and retail sector,” said Ros Morgan, Managing Director of Heart of London Business Alliance, which represents 500 companies in London’s West End.

TfL said there were no plans to hold talks with RMT leaders. “We remain open to discussion but there are no concrete plans at the moment,” said a spokesperson.

(Reporting by Victor Jack; editing by Paul Sandle and Guy Faulconbridge)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.