London Underground has discussed initiatives that would cut over 1500 jobs and close many ticket offices in a drive to further reduce costs, according to a confidential strategy report leaked by the RMT.
The document, which was leaked to the BBC, claims that new technology could deliver a better service but require 15% fewer staff, making all but a handful of ticket offices redundant. Despite being described as a discussion paper intended to examine the tube over the next decade rather than an actual proposal for immediate cuts, the RMT has condemned the document as a ‘blueprint for jobs and safety carnage’. Only last week, the RMT balloted staff for action over safety concerns and we all remember the strikes occasioned by the previous closure of ticket offices. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said:
‘Every single ticket office would be closed, stations left un-staffed and drivers would be thrown out of their cabs without a single thought for passenger safety. This ill-conceived and finance-led document ignores reality in favour of austerity and would impact on every single staff member. It would leave passengers stranded in tunnels with no means of evacuation and would turn the platforms and stations into a muggers and vandals paradise.’
Crow is obviously no stranger to hyperbole – re-arrange the words in the quote above and you’ll get an approximation of his response to pretty much any whisper of change in the transport system. But change the Tube must, according to LU’s managing director, Mike Brown:
‘New technologies, innovations in maintenance and the changing ways in which passengers use our services mean that London Underground must look ahead. In particular, we need to examine how new technologies can further improve efficiency and how we can respond to the changing needs of our customers.
We remain committed to our established policy of maintaining fully-staffed stations at all times and deploying staff where customers want them – at gate lines, on platforms and in other public-facing areas. As we have said before, the success of Oyster has fundamentally changed the way in which passengers use ticket offices, for example.’
With the transport unions’ finger permanently on the big red strike button yet a deal in place over a no-strike Olympics, could Londoners see walkouts before the end of the year?