While the line between vandalism and art continues to be trampled brazenly by the likes of SheOne and Banksy, unwanted spraypaint artworks and broken, pissed upon station furniture are still just unwelcome and unpleasant to some.
The Conservatives have released figures that show vandalism has indeed increased over the last three years with Bickley station in Bromley experiencing a charming 87 incidents of "urban guerilla artwork interventions" in 2005-2006 compared to the wee three incidents reported in 2001-2002. At the more centrally-placed London Bridge station, no incidents of vandalism were reported in 2001-2002; in the 2005-2006 period there were 33 cases.
We may feature the more amusing, smartarse stencilled or sprayed bits of street art on this site but we're never going to say "ooh, have a look at these intriguingly smashed lights, look at this fabulous set of broken windows and wow! Someone's pissed in the lift and tipped paint all over the stairs... again!" Because vandalism in its purest form is just unpleasant, ugly and inconvenient; it's not the questionable "art" of a wry Banksy-style double-take image, it's misspelt names scratched into windows, smashed lights and scribbled upon broken chairs that makes stations unpleasant, unlit, unguarded and unsafe.
Shadow Secretary for Transport Chris Grayling makes the point that "Sometimes these instances of vandalism only do superficial damage, but in other cases they can threaten the lives of passengers and staff." And with that in mind, London Underground maintenance firm Tube Lines is going to axe 200 cleaning jobs.
Bob Crow, General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is outraged. That's his permanent state, so rather inconsequential but after a demonstration by 30 protestors outside City Hall, Ken Livingstone has joined the speaking out on behalf of the workers and has pointed out the very strong likelihood that the already grubby London Underground is going to fall into even worse disrepair. The combined forces of Crow and Livingstone have made quite clear that Tube Lines' reasons for the job cuts are poor to say the least, and the cuts are going to seriously hinder any improvements to the system.
Tube Lines is apparently needing less staff because they are planning to "refocus [our] resources in terms of station cleaning." By getting rid of cleaners? Makes as much sense as the "Tretmgt67" scratched into the cracked window above the heap of discarded chicken bones and patch of sticky, dried beer on the Westbound Piccadilly line train.