London Underground and Boris Johnson plan to close every Tube ticket office in London by 2015. This is despite explicit pledges from Boris Johnson not to do this.
They also plan to:
- Cut 953 London Underground station staff jobs
- Remove Station Supervisors from many stations
- Create more managers, while cutting frontline staff
The RMT and TSSA, unions representing London Underground workers, believe these changes will impact negatively on staff and passengers. HOLT agrees. We think the cuts will mean:
- Less help with ticketing when you need it
- Less help with travelling when you need it
- Reduced personal security
- A less efficient train service
- A less safe Tube
- Fewer jobs for Londoners
LU bosses and Boris make a number of claims about what their cuts will mean. Here, HOLT takes on some of the key arguments…
“More visible staff”
LU bosses and Boris say their cuts will mean more visible staff, because it will take staff out of ticket offices and put them on platforms. But with 953 jobs facing the chop, overall there will be far fewer people on hand to assist with passengers’ mobility needs, ticket queries, and passenger safety. The job cuts include 50% cuts to morning peak staffing at outer London stations. Many stations will have no regular Station Supervisor on site to access the track during incidents and emergencies.
“Stations will always be staffed while trains are running”
LU left stations unstaffed due to staff shortages over 100 times in December 2013 alone. With an overall staffing reduction of 953 posts, this will inevitably become more common. There’s no way LU can keep their staffing promises while cutting jobs.
“Only 3% of journeys involve a ticket office transaction, which shows ticket offices aren’t needed”
That’s still over 100,000 journeys every day. Particularly at central London stations, with high numbers of tourists, ticket offices are still essential points of contact for passengers who need help and assistance. Take a look at the queues at any ticket office in a busy Zone 1 station and think about how much more chaotic that station will become if those ticket offices are closed.
Automating all ticket transactions means relying on machines which could break down, and discriminates against passengers who don’t speak one of the languages the ticket machines offer. Scrapping ticket offices as a fixed, identifiable point-of-contact between staff and passengers also disadvantages visually-impaired and other disabled passengers, who need to know staff can be found in a particular place as they may be less able to wander around the station looking for them.
“Other countries’ metro systems manage without staff or ticket offices”
London Underground has won international recognition and awards, largely due to having better levels of staffing than many other metros. Why should it level down its service to a lower common denominator?
The most-used metro system in the world, which is consistently ranked as one of the best, is in Seoul, South Korea. It’s ahead of London Underground in automating its ticketing system, but still has ticket offices on its stations!
There are also safety lessons to be learned from other countries. In June 2009, a rush-hour crash on the Washington DC metro killed nine people, including the operator. It was caused by an automated system failing; the Washington Post called it “the price of parsimony”, after numerous near misses went unheeded against a background of cuts to maintenance schedules and inspections.
“New technology means London Underground needs fewer staff”
New technologies should be used to make people’s working and travelling lives easier, not to make cuts that hit jobs, safety, and quality of service. If processes can be automated safely without putting safety and quality at risk, that’s great, but in such cases, staff should be retrained and redeployed, not face their jobs being cut.
Instead of developing technologies with the specific intention of using them to cut jobs, London Underground should develop technologies that work with staff to improve the service for passengers.
Technology breaks down sometimes, and cannot substitute for the human interactions vital to running a public service that passengers trust and enjoy using. Technology cannot reassure a distressed passenger, safely and properly check whether a train is empty, see and fix every fault, prevent someone from being attack, or raise the alarm in every emergency.
“London Underground must embrace change”
We agree — but we want London Underground to change for the better, in ways that benefit passengers and staff. Because of this, we will oppose any changes that make London’s transport systems less accessible, less reliable, and less safe.
CUTS KILL… STAFF SAVE LIVES
On 2 April 2007, a man was killed on the Docklands Light Railway when he fell onto the track at an unstaffed station and was hit by a driverless train.
In September 2012, an eight-year-old child was rescued from the Jubilee Line track at Stanmore by a cleaner. The driver of the train saw the child and stopped in time.
After a man was killed at Liverpool Street on 20 February 2000, the Railway Inspectorate compelled London Underground to employ station staff to ensure that trains were empty before entering depots and sidings. But in 2012, London Underground removed these detrainment staff, resulting in many passengers being “overcarried”, including a 12-year-old boy who got out of the train into an area of live tracks. It was only the actions of the driver that prevented a fatality. Subsequent trade union action forced LU to restore staff to the detrainment role.
During the 2013 Notting Hill Carnival, passengers escaped from a stalled train at Holland Park when they saw smoke. They broke through the inter-car barriers to get out. LU claims these barriers are escape-proof, and that we therefore need fewer station staff. This incident proved the claim was dangerous nonsense.