Commuters rushed home ahead of the start of the strike at 6.30pm (1.30am Malaysian time), as unions mounted picket lines outside stations and Transport for London (TfL) began reporting delays.
Subway operator Transport for London says so many drivers are expected to participate that it will be impossible to run any trains during the walkout.
Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Tube said: “The responsibility for this strike and the disruption that it will cause rests squarely with London Underground management”.
Londoners were seen standing in long queues at bus stations and cycle hubs in the capital on Thursday morning, as all Underground stations were shut down in a 24-hour strike which has been described by local media as the “biggest strike on the London Underground for 13 years”.
Britain’s prime minister and London’s mayor have condemned the strike by four major unions as unjustified.
Business groups say the strike will cost London tens of millions of pounds (dollars) in lost productivity. More than 30 workers from RMT, TSSA and Aslef picketed the Arnos Grove depot in north London.
Mike Brown, the managing director of the London Underground, has argued that the all-night service would boost jobs and stimulate the city’s economy.
“We want to reward our staff for its delivery and have been open and transparent in our negotiations with the trade unions – but unfortunately they have failed to engage”.
London’s “square mile” financial district is in the eastern side of Central London, and is not accessible very easily by auto due to its small streets and the need to drive across London at rush hour with its notorious traffic jams, which would be amplified due to the lack of underground trains, and then compounded by the absence of parking facilities in the area.
“We’re going on a school trip now to Greenwich but we can get there by DLR.
It is time to end the blame game and agree a solution which keeps London moving and secures the start of the night Tube in September”.
“We have today contacted Acas and asked them to assist us in getting back around the table”.
A defiant Mr Johnson later added: “There’s been plenty of time to put this offer to the relevant part of the workforce, I think it’s a great shame that it hasn’t been done”, the Mayor said on LBC radio.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Despite strenuous efforts by union negotiators to press London Underground to address the issues of fairness, safety, work/life balance and equality at the heart of this dispute, they have come up with nothing in the talks”.
“We have got to get on with the night Tube”.
“They have not moved their position at all during the last three months and seem intent on forcing through change without negotiation”, he said.
Reaction from Londoners have been mixed, with some suggesting that Tube drivers earn too much anyway, and others sympathetic to their concerns about having to work all night.
So, they can protest, but not strike – i.e. employ the only negotiating tool they have, the ability to withdraw their labour.