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24-hour services with 750 fewer jobs: will London Underground be safe?

Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Accessibility, All news, Disabled, Elderly, Employment, New Technology, Rail, Safety, Security, Services, Social inclusion |

London Underground has announced plans to run services through the night at weekends but to close all ticket offices, with a net loss of 750 jobs.

Staff unions have promised to fight the ticket office closure plans, which they say will compromise safety, especially for the most vulnerable passengers.

There are also concerns about how maintenance will be carried out in a system that — unlike New York City’s Subway and the Copenhagen metro — was not designed for round-the-clock services.

In his election campaign last year, Mayor of London Boris Johnson promised to keep the ticket offices open at every station. Explaining his decision to close them all instead, he 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.

“As now, all Tube stations will continue to be staffed and controlled in future, with more staff visible and available than today in ticket halls and on gate lines and with the same number of staff on platforms.”

However, Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, said: “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.”

And TSSA, which represents station staff, said the plans were “foolish, irresponsible and verging on the reckless“.

Christian Wolmar, the transport commentator and so far only declared candidate to replace Johnson as London mayor in 2016, said the announcement was a “clever bit of spin” that “does not disguise” the cuts.

Wolmar also questioned whether running services every Friday and Saturday night is the best use of scarce resources, suggesting more night buses would be a better option and that 24-hour Underground services would mean more maintenance disruption at other times.

Sadiq Khan, Shadow Minister for London for the parliamentary opposition to Britain’s ruling coalition government, welcomed the 24-hour service plans as “great news”, but warned: “There are real concerns about whether there will now be enough staff at all London stations to respond in emergency situations.”

See also: Would closing ticket offices improve London Underground?

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