A Look At The Reasons Behind The Tube Strike

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If the imminent tube strikes were to be boiled down to soundbites – and they largely have been – we’d have Transport for London on one side shouting “modernisation!” and the unions on the other shouting “safety and job losses!”. As always, things are a bit more complicated than that, so we’ve taken a look at what’s going on behind the scenes.

Changing Roles

One of the most contentious issues is the loss of 953 front-line jobs driven by closing all ticket offices. TfL thinks it will need an extra 200 staff to run the 24 hour weekend tube, so we’re talking a net loss of 750 roles. But it’s not as simple as shifting 200 people from their current jobs into Customer Service Assistant (CSA) roles though, as it’s unlikely that someone working during the day will fancy a midnight-8am Piccadilly Circus shift, and many of the jobs being cut are supervisory – moving roles would mean a hefty pay cut.

TfL says it can manage these job losses without compulsory redundancies (this isn’t TfL being generous, however; that was a concession won by the unions some time ago). We spoke to one of the RMT negotiators in between ACAS talks on Monday afternoon. He’d just been told by London Underground that 400 people have applied for voluntary redundancy. On Tuesday morning TfL told us 1,000 staff have applied. If the latter is true, the job losses can be managed relatively smoothly for staff. Edit: it’s being widely reported that in fact 450 staff have applied for voluntary redundancy so far.

But what of passengers? These 950 people work visibly in stations during current working hours (i.e. not the 200 who will be deployed overnight on weekends from 2015). TfL says that closing ticket offices and getting staff out among the travelling public will make them more visible. The unions say it’s still 950 fewer people on the front line. We asked TfL for ‘before’ and ‘after’ figures – how many staff are currently available to the public outside of ticket offices and how many will be in the future. A spokesperson said:

“Although we believe we can operate stations more efficiently with a net reduction in staff of 750, far more of those staff in stations in future will be out in public areas where they can help and be seen by customers.”

Which isn’t really what we asked. We think this is important and have submitted a Freedom of Information request. We’ll let you know when/if we hear anything back.

April update: TfL’s response to our FOI request was that they couldn’t provide the details, because “the details of our proposals, and how they would work in practice, are part of the ongoing formal consultation discussions with staff and trades unions,and are subject to change as a result”. We see their point, that it could be unhelpful and misleading to release information while that information is in flux. However, we think it would be useful for Londoners to have a more concrete idea of the results of one of the biggest changes to the Underground in living memory.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that London Underground agreed to a station-by-station review of the changes before the second tube strike planned for February, which led to the strike’s last minute cancellation by unions. LU has now changed its mind and says that all ticket offices will close. What’s up for review now is staffing levels within stations and the timetable for the closures.

How Might Stations Be Staffed?

How this affects you primarily depends on which stations you use. There are 270 stations on the network; lose 950 front line staff across all those stations, at existing hours (we’re not comparing night running to existing staffing levels), and it’s an average of 3.5 people a station. London Bridge, for example, has two ticket offices, one of which is open all day, the other most of it. Getting those staff out from behind glass would be extremely helpful – though, as we’ve said, without exact figures to say who’s going from where, it’s hard to say just how many of those currently bound to the ticket office will still be employed to help.

If, however, you use somewhere like Perivale, where the ticket office is only open for a couple of hours each day, is it likely you’ll see increased staffing levels? Not according to the RMT, who recently published a newsletter for its members working on the Central Line. In outer London, station supervisors will switch from being responsible for one station each to running (in TfL’s words) “a small number of local stations”. The RMT says there will be a “lone CSA” on duty at stations where supervisors are ‘roaming’. We asked TfL if there will be situations where stations are run by single members of staff (what happens when they go to lunch? To the loo?). The response:

“In the future we propose to change how we currently operate our stations, to more adequately reflect the different needs of our customers and to create a more personal service. This will result in more staff taking management responsibility for a lower number of stations, with more staff taking a greater level of ownership and responsibility at the local level at our stations.”

Which again, you’ll notice, isn’t quite what we asked. You can see what status your local station will have with this map (PDF), and an explanation of what the new designations mean. Edit: the BBC’s Tom Edwards confirms that some stations will be staffed by one person.

Balancing the Budgets

The elephant in the room with these changes is money. TfL is having its grant from central government cut. In 2015-16, £220m will go from the budget. The draft budget (PDF) for the coming year 2014-15 (if we’re reading it right) shows the central government grant is £280m lower than this year (PDF). Income from other sources (this is one of the reasons our fares have gone up) is estimated to be £250m higher, but there’s still a gap. TfL looks to be pulling £177m out of its reserves but still plans to reduce expenditure by £4.6m from this year to next.

The RMT tells us that TfL needs to save £50m from its station operating budget over the next nine years and suggests this is the driving force behind the changes. TfL denies this vehemently, saying:

“These changes are not about funding cuts, they are about adapting our service to what customers want from the Underground. The trend of ticket sales away from ticket offices has surged over recent years and today less than 3% of all tube journeys involve a visit to a ticket office.”

It is true that TfL has been trying to close ticket offices for years. Here’s a press release from 2007 (during Ken Livingstone’s Mayoral tenure) citing that same 3% figure, heralding the closure of 40 ticket offices to “shift station staff from behind the plate glass windows in ticket offices to the platforms and in ticket halls”. Sound familiar? Those closures were ultimately overturned in the run-up to the 2008 election. However, we’d be surprised if budget cuts didn’t play any part whatsoever in the decision-making process. Edit: it’s been pointed out to us by a City Hall staffer that 3% of all tube journeys equates to 100,000 people a day.

The RMT also told us that the changes on the table only add up to 6% of the savings needed to meet the cut in the government grant, and predicts more changes / cuts / savings to come. Again, we put this to TfL and asked how, if that’s the case, they plan to make up the rest of the shortfall. Other than the response already given above, an answer wasn’t forthcoming.

Consequences?

So how will this affect us, the travelling public? For most of us on an ordinary, day-to-day journey, the answer is: probably not very much. Without clear figures about where job losses will fall and how they counterbalance getting staff out of ticket offices, it’s impossible to say. This makes it very difficult for outsiders like us to say definitively whether it’ll be easier or more difficult to find a staff member at a station, or whether there’ll be any effect on safety. There is, perhaps, a small clue in recent figures uncovered by Transport for All, where an increase in instances disabled passengers were unable to access stations because of staff shortages appears to correlate with a previous round of staff cuts. We asked TfL at the time but received no response.

We know the fares system is being significantly upgraded soon and we’ll be able to do a lot more at ticket machines (for example, we’ve heard that if you forget to touch in or out, the system will be able to intelligently estimate where you came from / went to and charge accordingly. And, if you need a refund, there’s talk you’ll be able to do it at a machine). We asked TfL for more details on the improvements but we’re going to be charitable and say the press officer probably missed the question as it came at the end of our email.

If you do end up having to make a transaction that needs a human being (maybe if your employer pays for your season ticket loan with a cheque?) you’ll probably have to visit one of the Travel Information Centres. These currently exist at tourist gateway stations Euston, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Victoria and Heathrow, though the Piccadilly Circus centre is due to be replaced by one at Paddington.

So there you go. This is an unprecedented set of changes even before we get into all-night running (which, despite TfL’s attempts to combine the two, are really separate issues). We’ve only scratched the surface here – but we’ve got no doubt the debate will continue in the comments…

Photo by unslugged from the Londonist Flickr pool.

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  • SPPP2

    So TfL once again didn’t say how someone will be able to add a railcard (disabled, gold card, 16-25 year old etc) onto their oyster when offices close as its the only way right now? Or how to add travel vouchers to an oyster without going to a ticket office? Then there’s the lack of tickets at machines. For years they have forced the buyer to get the most expensive travelcard.

    Unless they confirm all this can be done at a machine, and machines will offer every single type of ticket, then closing offices is completely wrong.

    • Anon

      Station staff have already been able to add these railcards using staff functionality on the ticket machines since 2011…

      • http://www.panoramaphotographer.com/ thatkeith

        The key word being “staff”…

    • niico100

      These are small edge cases. 97% of journeys already don’t use ticket booths. With proper planning this can go down to zero.

      Spending millions on staff for the odd requirement like this is a huge waste – and puts pressure on ticket prices to go up.

      If people plan properly they can get round this – and if those are genuine concerns machines can be adapted – and so can the website.

      Get those staff out ASAP – they just aren’t required now we have Oyster.

      • Cj

        That 97% that keeps getting bandied about I’d inaccurate. It takes into account all Tube users as being the same, including commuters that more than likely have an annual season ticket they buy online. But there are 4 types of Tube user: commuters, Social users, Tourists and Disabled users. Ignoring the commuters for now, then what about those other 3 customer types that need the help of a hard working ticket office? The gateway station I work at has a hard working ticket office and we can get swamped a lot of the time, but that’s because most of our clientèle are Tourists and Social users. They need the ticket offices. 6 adults that all want 7 day T/Cs and extensions on Oyster? OK, that takes us 2 minutes. To do all that on a machine would take forever. We refund their Oyster too and cam get hundreds on a daily basis.

        I understand the Underground’s position on modernising the Tube and closing some ticket offices is fine. But these blanket closures of ALL ticket offices without reviewing each independently, especially gateway stations, is baffling.

        • niico100

          People are acting like the sky will fall in. It won’t. If people have to use a machine they’ll work it out and millions will be saved.

          You can do all that on a machine. OK use some of the saved money to make the machines more efficient – or put more in.

          I have been to plenty of metro systems around the world – maybe 50 – and much of the time I only have machines to use and it’s fine.

        • JStone

          I handled the Tube just fine as a tourist, having never been to London or even used a subway/underground in any city before, without needing any assistance from the staff. I prepared properly and educated myself on how the system worked before leaving home, however, so I am probably in the minority. That said, everyone who can afford to go to London has the same resources as I did. So if they get there unprepared, I have no sympathy at all.

          • Jane

            not everybody is educated and able. Some people are illiterate or have special needs.. shall we just say they cant travel?

          • JStone

            Yes, let’s.

          • Peter Leonard

            No, they can ask station staff for help…

    • http://londona729.blogspot.co.uk/ londona729

      Staff( CSAs or otherwise) will be able to login into the machines( they will all be updated) and be able to add the discount for you.

  • Rob Lugg

    I’m pleased to see a pretty well researched and balanced article from Londonist, in the past articles have been decidedly Evening Standard-esque (i.e. pro BoJo/anti-union).

    The reality is that cutting staff is the last thing the tube needs, I find it incredibly difficult to find help outside of peak times, and I live in Zone 2. If TfL were talking about maintaining staffing levels but closing ticket offices then I might see the logic (if station staff were given the ability to genuinely help deal with any and all issues, and machines were overhauled to sell all ticket types and deal with refunds, etc). The fact that Boris promised to keep these ticket offices open, and is now breaking that promise whilst selling us a limited 24 hour service (bribery if ever I saw it) means we simply cannot trust TfL or Boris to maintain a safe staffing level on the tube. I support the TfL workers 100% and won’t be crossing their picket lines, even though I have to be working at a hospital at 7:30am!

    • niico100

      What help do you regularly need that means you need staff around you constantly?! I just don’t get it. Oyster is extremely reliable & you can phone them up to get refunds or other help later on.

      • Rorschack

        You do not represent the majority, you do not represent a minority, you only represent your own tiny minuscule insignificant self. Your personal experience is worth nothing in a debate of this size. Stop being so selfish and self-important and you might see the world in a clearer light.

        • niico100

          Nice argument – “your opinion is worthless” – and I suppose you speak for the world?

          What evidence do you have about how many people hold my opinion? None.

          I AM being selfish eh? I am not the one who is disrupting millions of Londoners for an illogical Luddite cause. It doesn’t even make sense.

          Technology has changed – we no longer need ticket offices or these staff. I do not want to pay even higher ticket prices so some bizarre edge case situations where people need a ticket office can be serviced.

          You are being completely irrational.

          Here is what will happen. The ticket offices will be closed. Almost no one will notice and in 2 years the whole thing will be forgotten and London Underground will be saving *£millions* of costs – ultimately our money.

          By your logic why don’t Underground employ more people? How about 1000 more? 10,000 more people – give them jobs, yeah? It’s free money right?

          • Ben.B

            the levels of smug coming off you are astronomical, do you have to say your 2 pence for every single point anyone makes?

            there are a number of situations mentioned already that require a ticket office, but the best that comes to mind for me are the days when the machines break. in the new modern no customer contact world, that will basically mean there are less places to buy tickets and noone to sort you out should enough of them be broken.

            my main problem with this whole thing is that TFL should not have had a budget cut to begin with, the government taking the money away and them having to find it elsewhere is what causes the ticket prices to go up and every expenditure cut possible made, even if it contributes minimally to money saving in the scheme of things which these redundancies are certainly a case of. if the government successfully make savings by cutting the budget, why would they not continue to do so in the future? especially if TFL manage to offset the cost by any means necessary. in the future however it will be further increases in ticket prices that front the bill, the rail companies have been doing it for years and all the government has done is cottoned on it can do the same.

          • niico100

            Are you familiar with Ned Ludd?

            He destroyed modern weaving equipment because he believed it took jobs away from people that made cloth by hand.

            If a service can be offered with fewer staff – it should be. I don’t believe this will drastically impact the underground.

            Pre Oyster we needed a lot more staff because tickets regularly didn’t work. Now we just don’t.

            Sure there will be edge cases that are inconvenient in a small minority of cases – but people will come up with ways round this.

            If the above means large numbers of staff can be got rid of – sorry for them – but it makes the whole endeavour more efficient – and lowers upward pressure on ticket prices.

            They will find other work in London. It is ridiculous to pay staff that just simply aren’t needed anymore.

            If you’re against efficiency changes – you’re on the side of the hand weavers.

  • andybrice

    In 26 years of living in London I’m pretty sure I’ve never once used a ticket office on the tube.

    My local National Rail stations are often staffed by only one person, which seems to work fine. And the DLR gets by with no station staff.

    Also, improving the design of ticket machines could avert a lot of problems. They’re really not up to modern user interface standards.

    • SharkyYNWA

      It’s really great you can get by using the POMS or online and I presume happy as well to use the costly oyster helpline when things go wrong. Give a thought to the people who aren’t tech savvy or who require assistance, visually impaired and the mobility impaired.
      Yes we are thinking of ourselves but also all the travelling public.
      What would you do in our shoes???

      • andybrice

        Those are all problems that need addressing, but I don’t see how old-fashioned ticket offices are the solution to any of them.

        Ticket machines (and website) interfaces desperately need redesigning, yes.

        And for all the rest of those groups who need special assistance, I still think members of staff on the concourse are more accessible and helpful than behind a window.

        • SharkyYNWA

          Do you really think they will all be there on the gateline? You’ll end up with agency staff that know nothing of the surrounding areas, no real knowledge of the job and what to do in special situations…

          • andybrice

            But again, the solution to those problems is not simply to keep windowed ticket offices, it’s to value the knowledge of experienced staff more highly.

          • RicardoRed

            As some else has already stated, it’s still a loss of 750 front line staff that can help people (behind a glass window, or out in the public space). I used wood green station, and there are always people looking to use the ticket office. percentages of people that need it might be small, but it seems enough each day.

          • andybrice

            I don’t support losing those staff. Or drastically changing their job descriptions or working hours. But I fully support the idea of redesigning stations and ticketing systems around modern technology, and expecting those staff to move onto the gates or platforms where they can better help people.

      • Mark

        In the Netherlands they charge a €0.50 premium on tickets bought at the ticket office (hopefully waived for people with disabilities preventing them from using a machine).
        Given that 94% of people in the UK aged 55-74 have been online in the past 3 months (Eurostat), I don’t buy the ‘tech savvy’ argument for a minute. If people make a choice to use ticket offices instead of ticket machines (with assistance from the staff on the concourse if necessary), then let them pay a premium that covers the extra costs of running ticket offices.

        • sarah

          that eurostat number stinks. there is no way 97% of people in the uk have internet access

          • DrPlokta

            100% of people in the UK have Internet access, because you can use the Internet in public libraries. Don’t confuse Internet access at home with Internet access.

          • sarah

            sigh. not every can access their local library. not everyone is computer literate. also some libraries now charge. i stand by my original comment. verify that stat.

          • Laura

            It’s totally plausible for 94% of that age group to have been online in the last year. You can get online from your TV or mobile, you don’t need to be computer literate. Also, there are way more 55-65 year olds than there are 65-74 year olds and you can expect most people of working age to be able to use the internet, be that through a phone, a relative’s tablet or their TV so that number is skewed. Still, only 3% of tickets are purchased at the ticket office. It’s also fair to say that there are many people who don’t go online who are capable of using ticket machines, which have been around a lot longer than the internet.

          • http://www.panoramaphotographer.com/ thatkeith

            It may be plausible, but it should be verified. I would hang my students out to dry if they submitted work with this kind of un-sourced data. Until then, as those figures have been challenged, they should be dropped.

          • londona729

            TfL are deliberately misleading the public- 21% of LU tickets are purchased at a ticket office. Many are travelcards or top ups for more than the cost of a single journey, hence leading to only 3% of journeys beginning at a ticket office and I’m sure that the equivalent figures for journeys starting with ticket machines would be less than 8%

          • Cyclops

            I haven’t used a ticket office for twenty years; they only exist for barely functional retards who don’t have the nous to operate a machine and who probably shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near railway tracks anyway!

          • http://londona729.blogspot.co.uk/ londona729

            Nonsense! You have to go to the ticket office to buy certain tickets and to add discounts

          • Jane

            keep having to repeat NOT EVERYONE IS LITERATE AND ABLE. The assumption that everyone is independent is astonishing.

          • DrPlokta

            People who are not sufficiently able-bodied to get to their local library are presumably also not sufficiently able-bodied to use public transport — if they were, then they could use it to get to the library. So it doesn’t matter that they can’t buy the tickets that they don’t need. I agree that we need to deal with the illiteracy problem, but the correct solution is to stamp it out, not build systems designed to cope with illiteracy.

        • Nirano

          In 2012, 21 million households in Great Britain (80 per cent) had
          Internet access, compared with 19 million (77 per cent) in 2011.

          See also

          http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_275775.pdf

      • niico100

        I sympathise. I strongly advise you get an auto-topup Oyster card for a start. That way you will never have to worry about buying a ticket again.

        I advise everyone to do this – it saves so much time – you never have to buy a ticket again and the system automatically works out the lowest price for you.

    • G

      Neither have I, or alot of regular commuters. But lets face it London is an international city and for busy stations having no person with fully ticket capabilities is poor.
      Baker Street is always full of tourists buying several oyster cards at a time (which takes ages on a machine) but moreso when they come to return them to get their deposits they are oft met with closed ticket offices which is a sham.

      • Mark

        Frankly I think many tourists would find it easier to use a ticket machine with good foreign language translations than rely on a staff member’s French / Spanish / Japanese / Chinese skills…

        • DrPlokta

          Agreed, when I was travelling round Tokyo a few years ago the ticket machines were much easier to use than the ticket counters.

    • Nirano

      It is impossible to have lived in London for 26 years and not used a ticket office because this was the only way you could have gotten a ticket all those years ago.

      Some people prefer human interaction and for some that is the only thing that works for them.

      I would argue for redesigning ticket offices to make them more user friendly, but they are still needed because some people are better served by people and not machines

      • I Urquhart

        Indeed. I choose to use cash assistants at supermarkets and would prefer human assistance on the underground for two reasons. One, im an out of towner and want local and experienced advice sometimes e.g. where to get a connecting bus or ehat direction to head in from the station but also especially when there are delays and cancellations and I need alternative routes. My experience so far of a roaming CSA at Finsbury Park on a football night was that he spent a lot of time having to shout instructions about crowd control to a large crowd of people, while at the same time being overwhelmed by people like me asking specific questions. No wonder the information the poor harassed man gave me was unhelpful snd, it turned out, wrong. The second reason is that human beings are social animals. It is good for us and good for the cohesiveness of our society to interact with other humans including those who are not our kith and kin. Interacting with machines may be efficient and serves capitalism well. – greater throughput so that workers are moved to and from their work as expeditiously as possible, getting shoppers and tourists to wear they will spend their money – but we might pause to wonder what it is doing to our capacity for harmonious social relations when these become crisis-led and unfamiliar. There is a third reason beautifully expressed in this excellent article. I support the RMT and their fight to save jobs. The evasiveness of TfL concerning the budget cuts and the numbers who will lose jobs etc is telling.

        • Guest

          You choose to seek out someone who gives unhelpful, wrong information rather than find the correct information yourself from the maps (tube and/or surrounding area) which are at every station, and you think this is a good thing?

          I agree with you about humans being social creatures. But the tube is a service with a clear purpose. Surely, SURELY, what most people want from the tube is to get them from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible, rather than a chat???

          I can see both sides of the argument with the strike. I agree that unless the ticket offices are replaced with a greater number of better-performing ticket machines then the closures will cause greater crowding/delays etc. The current machines cannot cope with the more specialist demands of those who prefer ticket offices, and I fail to see how the proposed 150 new ticket machines will be able to cope with the extra workload of 270 ticket offices. They would at the very least have to provide as many extra machines as they are reducing ticket office positions, surely? Unless they think staff are much more inefficient than machines – in which case why did they hire inefficient staff in the first place?

          However, I personally rarely have any useful, helpful or even courteous interaction with station staff – whether behind a glass screen or directly in front of me. At my local station, for example, there are 2 members of staff at the gates during opening hours, there are only 8 gates, and yet getting help should your ticket/oyster not work for some reason is nigh on impossible as they’re usually busy chatting amongst themselves. When you DO get their attention, most of them won’t make eye contact, or even break their conversation to help, they just buzz you through without looking. Those in the ticket office are very marginally more helpful, if not more socially competent. I’d actually much rather THOSE people were at the gates or on the platform. At least then they could be of more use.

          • Cyclops

            Not everyone has the brains to do that; the ticket offices are a necessity for those with a sub-100 IQ.

      • andybrice

        I guess back in the 90s I must have always used a travelcard.

        I still think stations should be staffed, but those staff are more helpful on the gates than in an office.

  • BigM

    @SPPP2 They’re not getting rid of staff completely, they’re getting rid of some and moving some from ticket offices to station concourses. The staff on concourses will be able to do the activities you describe with their tablet computers for you.

    • Nigel Whitfield

      Surely they will only be able to do some. For example, cash refunds are going to have to be done either by machines, or by post, rather than at ticket offices, because I really can’t see LT deciding that they’ll have people hanging round on the concourse with big bags of money, in case someone needs some of it back.

      • Mark

        When was the last time you (or anyone you know) got a cash refund on a tube ticket? I don’t think spending millions maintaining ticket offices for such rare transactions is justified.

        • Nigel Whitfield

          I should imagine there are probably quite a lot of tourists and other people from out of town who wouldn’t mind a cash refund when the time comes to leave town.

          Equally, I’m pretty certain LT will be more than happy if these changes result in fewer people managing to get back their Oyster deposits as they dash to the airport.

        • londona729

          You can get a cash refund for your oyster deposit!

    • SPPP2

      If TfL gave a 100% commitment to that it would be fine.

      They havn’t, and refuse to.

  • Nirano

    TfL needs to change its thinking. Although for the most parts the Tube is essential for Londoners it also plays a strategy role in the London economy. At particular times of the year it serves as transit for people from all over the world. It also serves as an essential part of planning for tourism, hospitality, events and other business sectors.

    Soon we are told supermarkets and delivery companies will be using tube stations to deliver their promises to their respective customers.

    This should convey the idea that TfL should consider the tube network not only as a mode of transporting commuters but also as strategic asset in the London economy. This I fear has not been the case for a while.

  • J

    What, realistically, can be cut from the TfL budget in order to make up for those budget cuts? If the RMT’s figures are correct and the staffing proposals on the table would only result in 6% of what’s needed, what is even available to cut in order to find the remaining 94% while not only maintaining current levels of service, but expanding to 24-hour by 2015 while keeping fares reasonable? Ditch the Northern Line extension and station upgrades?

    • SPPP2

      Re-focus the national govt budget to place more emphasis and funds towards infrastructure and transport. It is always left as a low priority in the UK.

      • tyke

        It may be a low priority but what little there is is overwhelmingly spent in London and the South East – crossrail, Thames link, DLR, etc etc. The tube strike just leaves Londoners in the same boat as the rest of the country.

    • londona729

      Reassess the wages paid to staff? Especially the management!

      Reduce waste (e.g http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/residents_in_kensal_rise_claim_area_is_overrun_with_ghost_buses_1_2218458
      )

      • Jon Millwood

        Many of the jobs they are reclassifying that are being strikes over are supervisor or management level anyway they are changing the responsibilities of managers and supervisors and the number on each pay grade

  • Jose

    It’s a business… Welcome to the real world… It’s better they cut back and give voluntary redundancy than over stretch into administration and you ALL lose your jobs… In it together? You’ll soon change your mind if the ship starts sinking!

  • Kevin Boyd

    Wood Lane station opened from new without a ticket office. So there is a precedent for not having a ticket office at any station. I am not in favour of reducing the presence at stations with short opening hours like those at the suburban end of the Central line, but closing every office doesn’t give much of a bolt hole for the person taken out of the office, does it? So, if there is nobody on duty at a station, presumably it means there is no way the ticket barriers can remain closed. For those comments about services that cannot be done without a ticket office, how does one do these at Wood Lane, does anyone know?

    • G

      They send them over to White City if they’re lucky to catch the ticket office opening times imposed on staff

    • BJD

      I struggle to take a model used at a low footfall station, apply it to London Bridge or Victoria and expect the same result.

      • londona729

        I totally agree but technically you should replace Victoria (as it will retain it’s ticket office facilities ) with Oxford Circus!

  • G

    A very well written and researched piece! FACTS should be used to support arguments (for/against) unfortunately alot of feelings, half truths are being used in some articles and alot of online comments.

    Alot of focus has been predominantly on ticket office staff but I’ve seen nothing mentioned of another important role that is evaporating with these cuts is the role of SCRA (Station Control Room Assistant) who monitor the CCTV throughout the station/stations, liase with all the staff via radio during incidents or routine tasks (hourly security checks, liasing with other stations to help customers with mobility issues). They are the eyes and ears on the station for both the supervisors and the rest of staff.
    Station supervisors are trained and are safety licensed to carry out important tasks that CSAs aren’t, if under LU’s new proposals they are responsible for a group of 4-6 stations what happens when things hit the wall and they aren’t there to deal with them but just a few CSAs who cannot deal with the situation fully?

    • londona729

      Then TfL will then claim money from the government (or farepayers) to rehire staff to fill those roles..

  • sonia.r.

    I am sorry to say that ticket office staff currently do not provide any sort of assistance to anyone nor the staff outside the window. In more than one occasion I carried myself, with the help of other members of the public a prams and help people on wheelchairs people getting down to the tube, with several time 2 or more staff members standing like poles, when questioned the answer was “I am really sorry I will get told off if I leave the stairs unattended” (Victoria Station). Now I am paying a travel card zone 1-3, I am part time student so I do not get the discount since 2 years despite I apply and get funding from the government (that was enough to be entitled previously), struggling day by day to pay everything I also need to see daily what the station stuff does not do. I also have witnessed what seemed to be a trial of having people from the ticket office on the platform and around the gates few days ago. This poor people where scared to death to be asked, equipped with a tube map struggling to get around, couple of them sweating under pressure with the typical smile of who would love to say ” I have no clue they put me here please ask me something easy like where is the way out”. it is not going to work. I must say the ability of TFL to not provide answer to the questions asked is absolutely outstanding, even when you go to their head office, they do not know or pretend not, if you can get into the building of course. Maybe they should start to make cuts there instead of depriving the stations and passengers of service and security.

    • londona729

      You should consider downgrading to a Zone 2-3 travelcard and use the bus within Zone 1 , that should be a saving of at least 25%!

  • tony

    the main point that people are missing is the safety factor.although ticket office staff are predominately in the ticket office when there is an emergency they come out and help in overcrowding issues, people falling ill on platforms trains etc.when their jobs go there is no way the same amount of people will be put onto the gatelines .there is a shocking loss of death just waiting to happen on the overcrowded tube system .With cut after cut of the amount of people employed its not if , its when .

    • Jon Millwood

      Most stations that are actually underground will see no change or an increase in staff and if there aren’t enough staff they cannot open then station (this is why so many stations are closed due to todays strike action).
      The quieter above ground stations that will see a reduction in staff will be no less safe than a DLR or National Rail station that operates without any staffing.

      • SPPP2

        And get much more fare evasion like on commuter trains around much of outer London? So it won’t save as much as they hope.

  • nicolo

    The monthly pass I have costs around 130gbp which to me sounds bloody expensive (in Milan I used to pay 26Eur for access to the public transportation network for a month). TFL should be damn inefficient if they need to charge so much money for any ride. It looks like a bloody rip-off

    • londona729

      It is a rip off like many other things in Britain! (e.g utility bills, housing, etc…)

    • Jon Millwood

      The union won’t let them run any more efficiently!

  • CanAmSteve

    Perhaps TfL would care to consider making the Tube more disabled-friendly, and in a way which does not require staff assistance. Obviously, many of te older stations are difficult to upgrade, but there is no reason why newer stations or those with space cannot be rediesigned to allow less-abled travellers easier access.

    As I’ve mentioned before, TfL seems to believe that some lifts require a trained staff member to access and use, which is ridiculous. The (new) lifts also appear to frequently be out of service – for some reason lifts in the UK seem to suffer failure at a much higher rate than elsewhere (in my experience). Or is it that we just can’t be bothered to fix them?

    • londona729

      The problem is money and most stations are rather impossible/impractical/old/awkward/ really expensive to install lifts

  • reyanshul

    TFL workers need to do something to save their jobs and be heard by Mayor of London!!

    Although painful for commuters the strike seems necessary from the point of view of workers!

    Though very small..this might help a bit for people facing problems in commuting during the strike? Download @Uber on ur mobile https://www.uber.com/sign-up , use code DREAM592359 & get £20 off!

  • Nirano

    Just saw this. Is this people power?; civil disobedience? or a bit scary?

    Tube Strike Backfires As Commuters Steal Train Keys And Drive Themselves

    THE London tube strike ended abruptly last night after commuters stormed trains and instantly mastered the controls.

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/?p=3299&print=1

    • blobface

      It’s a bit scary because you can’t tell satire from reality, thedailymash is a website for satirical news, like the Onion news of America… it’s not real.

      • carlosp_uk

        Or perhaps they can and they’re just trying to plug their website.

  • Antony Hallmark

    Would it not be more prudent as SPPP2 suggest in redesigning the ticket machines they have and also installing more machines before they even consider cuts.
    I know first hand that prices are different from the machines to buying one directly from the office. I also i cannot buy the ticket i need to travel to work from a machine.
    When they say 3 percent of people buy tickets from the counters and the rest from the machine that’s ridiculous and another case of fiddling the results to suit. I always see huge cues all over London of people waiting to buy tickets from the counters and i only see this going up as more people are born from now until 2050 which means an unprecedented amount of people using these facilities.
    On the other hand TFL workers no offense are way overpaid for the jobs they do against most Londoners and that’s a very basic fact. They need to revise the wages they pay against the jobs done and this would help them cut there expenditure and allow more money to be put into expanding the network.

    • londona729

      21% of LU tickets are purchased from a ticket office.
      Tfl intentionally quotes the 3% of journeys starting at a TO to justify their position

  • Michael Peel

    Ticket offices in a modern metro system are redundant and the sooner drivers, on £52,000 per year for a 35-hour week plus 43 days paid holiday, get made redundant by automated trains the better.

    There are myriads of ways by which one can acquire a season ticket, etc. and tourist guides will very quickly tell tourists how to travel by tube as they already do in Paris, Berlin and many other major centres.

    • sarah

      35 hours week at unsociable hours….

      • twboy

        And still 15 hours less and at least 10k more than a chef with a tougher workload

        • Nirano

          A chef has the possibility of harming tens of people whereas a tube driver could potential harm hundreds of people. And he has the responsibility of getting all those on board to work, business meetings, etc.

          Not quite the same – need to compare like with like

          • Rebekah

            Experienced bus drivers in London earn somewhere between £26k and £32k, don’t they? And they have to negotiate traffic…

    • dubhgilla

      £52,000? Get your facts right you dickhead.

      • sixditto

        £52,000. Yes, really. Tube driver is one of the best paid and easiest jobs in London. That’s the purpose of Bob Crow’s union, to obtain (by threat, like mobsters) the maximum possible income for its members with the least work. Nothing else, don’t believe any lies about “safety” the RMT actively fights safety improvements unless they come with either a pay bonus for its members or extra time off.

        • Nirano

          Tube drivers may be well paid but i suspect their pay was negotiated with TfL management and strike action although considered archaic is a last resort way of withholding labour.

          When TfL remuneration committee agrees pay packets in the millions of pounds for its directors, this is done behind closed doors (rubber stamped at AGM). And when dividends are declared there is no negotiation – management believes it has earned it.

          There needs to be a balanced discussion when it comes to pay – we probably won’t have this from either side of the TfL

  • sarah

    it’s 3% of transactions are carried out at ticket offcies not that 3% of people use them. this is still 100s of thousands transactions. tfl is a public service. it should meet public needs. these savings aren’t even as high as the bill for the dangleway, the cycle hire subsidy and the vanity bus project combined

    • londona729

      Wrong it’s 21%! So much more than TfL would have you believe

  • SPPP2

    Once they cut staff and more barriers are opened up watch fare evasion go up. Then the savings from getting rid of staff will be lost.

    With some stations having only 1 staff member after the reforms it will happen.

    • Jon Millwood

      As most people travel into or out of zone 1 to zone 4 etc then they will touch in at the Z1 station and therefore if don’t touch out they still get charged. Oyster has automatically created the need to touch both ends of your journey

      • londona729

        However if someone doesn’t pay at all they can still enter/exit a station with no barriers without paying so oyster is not a panacea to fare evasion.

  • Ian Gibson

    So if it’s not about budget cuts (according to TFL), why not just employ more staff?

  • Bert

    to SPP2 You will have to do this online. That or go to a travel centre

  • Bert

    It appears that nobody has addressed the increase in fare evasion as a result of these proposals. When staff are attending station issues that require them to be away from the barrier, fare dodgers will have a field day, also the die hard will just push out and laugh at the lone staff member.

  • Guest

    I see that despite their big cuts, TFL managed to increase the fares of the world’s most expensive public transport!
    If they don’t stop this trend, oyster cards will be very soon massively cloned and CCTV won’t help anymore.

    Stations’ staff is rarely there and the knowledge about technical and non-technical related problems has gone a long time ago I believe.
    Have you tried asking them about delays and reasons? They always say: “There is a signal problem”, which is a lie.
    They always seem to be there by chance, not for the purpose and if you complain they complain too, as if they were customers too! :D
    My friends, you are not customers! You represent the TFL to me!! So I’d expect an answer from you, not just, “well you’re right, the delay is unbearable”……!

    The only good value I see is to have helpful staff in those situations and for people who need any type of assistance.
    For the rest, stations are baroque-esque and they need a restyling so bad.

    TFL, now that you increased the fares once more, why don’t you make an effort to reduce all those mysterious signalling problems, make the tube lines like district and circle line run faster, install proper panels with the REAL expected arrival time, run the tube 24h on the weekends like any other major city in the world and clean the black and polluted air in the tunnels?!

    Oh and of course, this will require hiring more staff, not reducing it, so you might want to think about converting the jobs of those made redundant into all those nice activities I mentioned here above.

  • Guest

    I’m at a station, I need to speak to a member of staff about something. I know there are three members of staff about somewhere. I can see two of them, because they are surrounded by a bunch of 20 people, all trying to ask a question. The other one I can’t see, he could be anywhere in the station.
    Imagine how chaotic and stressful this will be.
    People will be exploding in rage and there may well be fights as people jostle to be ‘next’ when there is no proper queuing system. Will this have an effect on London’s reputation and affect its tourist industry?

    In a crowded city like London, where there are so many people, you need to have organised queueing systems. Having wandering staff will mean they end up getting swamped. If one person needs a member of staff for something that will take 10 minutes to resolve, its going to set everyone else back.

  • Andy Thornley

    The tube is a service – not a business. We are passengers – not customers.

    The sooner that this is realised, and that sometimes more vulnerable people – for example, older people or those with learning difficulties/other disabilities may not be able to use machines, and need extra help – the better.

    Boris would like to treat LU as an ‘essential service’ to limit strike action. It’s time he put that same description to the service itself. You can’t just say that certain sections of society cost more than others, so bugger it – we’ll leave them disadvantaged.

    As I said earlier; it’s a service, not a business. Thus, it should be treated as such.

  • Karim Govani

    I was in Melbourne over Christmas and the only way to travel on public transport is using a Mykhi Card where everyone gets the same price travel depending where they go. Very easy to use and similar to an Oyster card. And I dont hear the people of Melbourne complaining either.

  • MZK

    Just a quick point on that 3% equating to 100,000 people a day stat. I don’t doubt the correctness of that stat – TfL website cites 1.229 billion people a year travel on the underground = 3.3 million people a day. 3% of that is your magic 100,000ish number.

    3% figure was referring to how many people purchase a ticket at a booth though. Not everyone purchases a ticket on a daily basis for every journey they make, so saying/thinking that 100,000 people each day rely on a manned ticketing booth is a little misleading (and odd coming from a City Hall staffer).

    The reality is, 3% probably equates to a figure FAR, FAR lower than 100,000 people. Considering about 7 million Oyster cards are used each day, and a massive number of people commute in from outside of London (and therefore tend to have already purchased daily/weekly/monthly/yearly tickets in advance of arriving into London), I think that 3% figure (however accurate/inaccurate it is) should be taken quite seriously in regards to understanding the logic behind the proposed closure of the ticketing booths and reallocation of staff to other parts of the station.

    • londona729

      21% of LU tickets are purchased at the ticket office
      3% of journeys begin at a ticket office
      This is because most tickets sold are reusable- e.g travelcards

  • emma kaye

    First, I’m in Seattle–just so you’ll know. Here there is a safety rule (law?) that a minimum of two people must staff a public location, such as a library, community center, etc. It sounds as if TfL does not have to abide by a rule (law?) like this. How can this be?

    • londona729

      There’s section 12 law which covers stations that are wholly or partly underground have to be manned . However stations such as Harrow on the Hill could be left unmanned legally…

  • Marinko

    Has anybody thought of the millions of tourists that visit london every year? How will they manage to use a ticket machine which will offer countless ticket options? and how many language options will there be? Will the staff be positioned by these same machines spending most of their time explaining how it works? and what about the duty of care of the staff on the frontline. I’ve travelled to over 50 countries around the world and used mostly public transport, underground systems. When faced by a machine, I found it difficult if not impossible to choose which ticket was right for me. I speak several languages and without the help of a local wouldn’t have managed. With our fast pace of life can you imagine having to stop and help, especially in the rush hour. So i have much more experience than the average person and found that without a ticket office my journey had become more complicated. A compromise would be keeping the ticket office open in the main stations and increasing the staffing numbers. We earn millions of pounds from tourists, what do we give back in return? apart from the obvious. The least we can do is keep a ticket office open at our hub stations.

    • aLuoGirl

      Locals/londoners will have to do the absent staff’s jobs by explaining to tourists how to use the machines – you can expect long queues at the machines because tourists will be struggling at the machines.

  • Colonel McFuckNugget

    And they have to do this exactly when I have finals in uni?

  • Mix

    This is got to be wrong? “it’s been pointed out to us by a City Hall staffer that 3% of all tube journeys equates to 100,000 people a day

    • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

      Believe it or not, it’s true! The Underground has 1.23 billion journeys each year, which is around 3,369,863 journeys every day. 3% of that is 101,000. OK, that’s journeys rather than individual passengers, but it’s unlikely that people will be sold single tickets several times a day by someone in a ticket office…

  • niico100

    “Front Line Staff” – it’s not the frikking first world war.

    Paying for x hundred staff for 3% of journeys now (which can come down close to zero if people plan in advance). Bizarre edge cases aren’t a good enough reason to waste millions on un-necessary staff.

  • Pissed off Londoner

    I’d like to make one point which I think is overlooked. If the ticket office closes, then the customers that would normally be there, will be joining the rest of the customers in the hall. So more people in the same place right? Now it’s established that there will be fewer staff… So that’s now more customers, less staff in a less organised manner on stations? Imagine it for just a moment… Now let’s add the dilution of the controlling staff you don’t see, the people who make announcements, answer phones, contact emergency services, reunite families, deal with complaints, monitor CCTV, liase with controllers, help regulate the madness and generally organise the station to good running; yeah, they’ll be reduced too. So what have we got? It would seem it’s the same amount of visible staff, with less support and three times the responsibility. Customers, who could have had a specific place for a specific scenario are now piling up in the same place, trying to travel, waiting for help, or perhaps engaging in less than civic behaviour?
    Imagine the london bridge example;
    It’s busy enough with the ticket offices open no?
    Well close them and dump those poor fellows slap bang in front of those gates and see how many people can get where they’re going?

    Let’s see how quickly the regular commuter can get to work with his demagnetised gold card fails and he has to wait behind a line of tourists curious about Oyster cards before a gate can be opened?

    Hoedown those machines work? Surely they run out of tickets/cards/change right? Who will keep them stocked if there’s no ticket office staff?

    Who gains from these proposed changes? Staff? No. Tourists? No, definitely not? Regular punters? Theoretically … No, because even if you know what you want/have or where you’re going, they’ll be more obstruction due to less management. And Lordy Lordy let’s hope you don’t suffer a mid journey malfunction?

    Now should I bother talking about times of crisis? Okay, just quickly though… Imagine all that, with even less staff beachside an incident has occurred and someone needs to get an ambiance, someone else needs to be somewhere in the midst of the incident to manage it. Someone else needs to be on the phone to whatever authorities are necessary and the last guy in their little orange vest is trying to tell all the punters at… Station of your choice… That service is about to be delayed because of massive overcrowding, an inability to segregate customer needs and lack of staff to do anything but say at the top of their voices “for those who have lost or are about to lose money on incomplete journeys… call oyster or your bank. For those who need directions or assistance… There’s a map on the wall and some leaflets over there. For those in pain, need, or require emergency services… If you are able to walk, go upstairs/outside and shout for help… Who knows, it might work? For those with a question… call travel information. For those who don’t speak English, read or write… Good luck. For those in an immediate rush… Get a cab. For those with failed tickets… form a line and wait, I’ll open the doors eventually. For those who have lost money in a machine…. They’re better than offices and now I’m very visible. And for everyone else, enjoy your day, happy oystering and remember… World class tube for a world class city.”

  • zeph33

    for me, the main issue might be safety in the tube.
    Coming from Paris, if there is one big difference between the tubes in Paris and London, it is that London’s tube is much safer, i.e. you feel safe on the platform and in the train. In Paris, it’s often the opposite, and crime in the tube is quite frequent.
    And the reason for that is that there is no staff at the tube’s gates, so many people come in the tube without ticket.
    If we get rid of staff in the stations, this might be a big risk of making London’s tube unsafe.

  • Cyclops

    Sack everybody and automate the lot of it.

  • emmakaye

    I got as far into the article as – one person per station. Here in Seattle and I am sure other places throughout the states where the public is served, libraries for example, the staff minimum is 2–for safety reasons. I sure wouldn’t want to be the only staff member in the tube station entrance area. There are some truly weird people in the world. Perhaps you folks don’t have the capability of suing negligent employers? Cause that’s what TfL would be with one-person manning of stations.

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