How serious is Boris about the driverless Tube?
Last night Mayor Boris Johnson threatened to have more Automatic Train Operation (ATO) systems on the Underground network and implied he could sack Tube drivers if they didn't stop striking and employ non-union staff in their place.
ATO isn't new - however to describe it as "driverless" is a bit misleading as there are drivers most of the time who check the doors but they switch to manual when there's a problem.
It's used on the Victoria and the Central Lines and it's coming on the Jubilee and the Northern Lines.
Driverless is probably more applicable to the DLR but even there they have train captains to look after commuters and the doors.
The hitch with the veiled "plan" is what if you employ someone who's non-union (which you wouldn't know anyway) - how long before they sign up to the RMT or ASLEF?
And with the RMT announcing strike dates on the DLR next week - it proves even really driverless trains don't stop strikes.
Interestingly, the Conservatives on the London Assembly proposed totally driverless train across the network six months ago claiming it would save £140m a year. It was swiftly dismissed by the Mayor's adviser Kulveer Ranger.
The Mayor's opponents say he's grandstanding and baiting the unions.
Others say he's trying to put clear blue water between himself and Ken Livingstone in next year's Mayoral election.
What about another theory.... Is the Mayor trying to isolate the RMT Union?
If he's baiting a union it's certainly only one union - the RMT.
I've been given this letter (PDF) that the Mayor has sent to ASLEF, the Tube drivers union.
The Mayor is asking Keith Norman of ASLEF to a meeting to discuss long-term transport strategy and not enter negoitations on specific issues. That'd include the transport settlement and the Olympics.
A spokesman said it didn't change policy and said they wouldn't meet with unions while actions were going on.
On the one hand the Mayor implies he will sack Tube workers if they don't stop striking - and then on the other he invites them round for tea.
Let's see what ASLEF do.
Difficult decision for them? What will happen to union solidarity now?
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