Tories push for driverless trains on the Tube

by Alister POOLE on June 17, 2010

The Tories have proposed to London Mayor Boris Johnson that making underground trains driverless could save £141m-a-year in paid wages and prevent costly industrial action.

However, Transport for London (TfL) said that staff on the trains were there to provide information, comfort passengers, and expedite alighting. Additionally, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said the removal of drivers would also pose a safety issue.

Mayor Johnson, however, said that driverless trains would faster, safer, and provide more efficient levels of services. He added that the move would end the hold unions have over the city’s tube system.

Currently both the Victoria and Central lines have the technology, which has already seen a reduction in staffing levels from drivers to door openers. Current upgrades will see the technology extended to the Northern, Piccadilly, Circle, Hammersmith, District, and Jubilee lines. Industrial relations have been in a poor state between London Underground operators and train drivers.

However, Bob Crow, general secretary for the Underground’s biggest union - Rail, Maritime and Transport - said that the decision had been poorly thought out and would affect safety on the tube. He added that issues of terrorism, derailment, or massive signaling failures had not been properly addressed.

Mr Crow urged the travelling public to protest the decision, saying he did not believe it would be put up with. Between 31 December 2005 and 23 December last year, more than 20 days of striking have taken place, and a further 34 strike ballots had been voted on.

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