Underground job loss plan sparks union fury
PLANS to axe 750 London Underground jobs and close all the system’s ticket offices have been announced by Transport for London, provoking a furious response from rail unions.
TfL said the changeover would be complete by 2015, and also include 24-hour services on key sections of the Underground at weekends. There has never been a 24-hour service on the Underground in its 150-year history, apart from a few major occasions, such as Coronations. TfL said it would now be possible because the modernisation of various lines which has been carried out in recent years means that maintenance can be concentrated on fewer nights.
But it is the plans to close all 268 ticket offices and the accompanying job losses which have gained most attention. One union spokesman summed up the situation to Railnews with the single word ‘outrageous’.
TfL said there would be more staff on duty in ticket halls and on platforms instead. It has also categorised the network’s stations into four types. Stations in the leading ‘Gateway’ group, such as Heathrow and King’s Cross St Pancras, will have enlarged and improved enquiry offices.
At most stations, help will come from the staff on duty in ticket halls and elsewhere, who will be equipped with state-of-the-art information devices. There has also been an official commitment to keep all stations staffed during traffic hours.
Transport for London said: “The trend of ticket sales away from ticket offices has surged over recent years and today less than three per cent of all Tube journeys involve a visit to a ticket office. In future therefore, rather than being remote from customers behind closed doors or glass windows, Tube station staff will not be based in ticket offices, but in ticket halls, on gate lines and on platforms, ready and available to give the best personal and face-to-face service to customers.”
It added that “before any changes are introduced full safety risk assessments will be carried out. All stations will continue to be appropriately staffed to ensure safe operation and evacuation and to maintain LU’s excellent safety record.”
The CBI has welcomed the prospect of 24-hour services, but TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes [another immigrant] accused London Mayor Boris Johnson of being the ‘hypocrite of the decade’. Mr Cortes said: “It beggars belief that the Mayor was elected in 2008 on a pledge to keep open every ticket office, yet is now planning to close every single one, with all that means for safety and jobs.
“We shall be launching a joint campaign…to reverse this decision and we urge all Londoners to back this campaign to prevent Boris’s Long March to the leadership of the Tory system on the back of his lasting legacy of a second class tube network.
“He will leave behind the most expensive tube in the world and one of the most badly supervised, with mobile station supervisors replacing permanent supervisors.”
Meanwhile RMT general secretary Bob Crow warned that his union would now be considering a ballot for industrial action.
He said: “No matter how this is dressed up by Boris Johnson and his officials, today’s announcement is all about slashing £270 million from the annual London transport budget and the proposed cuts will decimate staffing levels and hit the most vulnerable users of tube services the hardest. The mayor must believe he is some sort of magician if he thinks he can slash a thousand jobs and still run safe services when everyone knows that staffing has already been cut to the bone while passenger demand continues to rise.