A girl at a London school is planning a four-and-a-half-hour trip to take her A-level math exam on Tuesday, as the train strike is expected to cause serious disruption to travel.
Other students had to book hotels or stay with friends as the country device for the first day of the shutdown – the worst train strike in three decades.
The travel headache described by the headmaster of the City of London School for Girls is just one example of the disruption faced by millions of people this week.
Railway strikes – latest updates
Jenny Brown said the “double whammy” of a London train and tube strike on Tuesday was especially problematic for the school in central London, where the vast majority use public transport.
“We had to think a lot about how to take care of these students, contingency arrangements. Some – whenever possible – stay with local friends,” she said.
“And for those who travel long distances, you need to be very careful. Some have booked Travelodges, some are staying with local friends.
“I’ve just heard from a student who will take four and a half hours for her journey to make sure she gets there for her math exam in the afternoon.”
Some 40,000 workers are on strike over wages, jobs and conditions, but the transport secretary called it “totally wrong” and said rail workers are already paid fairly.
The strikes are expected to add to the stress of exam students across the country – and it’s another unexpected hurdle after years of disrupted learning during the COVID pandemic.
“It would have been absolutely wonderful if some thought had been given in advance to try to protect those [pupils] and avoid hitting young people who have a hard time,” said Ms. Brown.
There is some scope for delaying the start of the exam, but the principal said that some students will inevitably be late despite their best efforts.
She told Sky News: “I imagine that, like many schools across the country, we will place exceptional circumstances requests on the exam boards for those who, through no fault of their own, simply cannot get into the school for the exam start.”
Millions of employees are also making alternative travel plans, deciding to work from home or take the day off before strikes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
People at Euston Station in London seemed to have differing opinions about the shutdown.
“As a union member, I always support unions,” one woman told Sky News.
“It gets in the way of my trip, but, you know, if they feel like they have to go on strike, that’s their problem and I support them.”
“They have to go on strike, they are worthy causes,” said another traveler. “It’s an inconvenience, but these guys thought of it.”
But one man admitted he was experiencing a travel “nightmare” and may have to use a rented bike as London’s rail and tube network comes to a halt.
“I think we all support people doing their work, we all support people getting more money,” he said. “With the current cost of living, we know we need to be paid, but at the same time we don’t demand ransom from the public.”