London Underground strikes: And so it begins…

Ticket hall Transport for London said the plans would save £50m a year

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Tube strikes, and so it begins…

The changes to how London Underground (LU) operates have been around for some time but now strike dates have been declared by the RMT Union. It's highly likely the TSSA union will also follow suit.

If you missed it, the staffing plan is to cut about 950 staff and close all ticket offices.

LU says it'll try and avoid compulsory redundancies and all stations will be staffed while trains are running. It wants to move the staff from the ticket offices onto the gate lines.

The unions have concerns over the jobs cuts and safety. They believe there should be more staff not fewer as the number of passengers continues to grows.

Party trick

A few observations from me so far:

London Underground initially tried to tie in the idea of a 24-hour weekend Tube into this proposal.

It was a neat party trick because that idea is very popular. Cynics would say it was razzle-dazzle to distract from the real proposal - ticket office closures.

It does seem that many commuters I have spoken to appreciate these are two separate issues. Certainly the unions want to separate these policies and arguably they seem to have been successful.

"Lone working"

The history over ticket office dispute does not bode well for the unions.

In 2010 with a similar mandate (76% of those who voted backed strike action, compared to 77% in 2014), strikes did not avert the reduction in ticket office opening hours.

Will London Underground and the mayor be willing to steamroller this proposal through as well?

I've noticed in outlying stations (called local stations in the LU proposals) a staff member could be working alone under a supervisor who will also be looking after six other stations.

Commuters crowd a bus during a Tube strike The last comparable Tube strike was in 2010

Even in London Underground's own documents "lone working" will be given particular attention when assessing risk. "Security" and "assault" are also listed.

By closing ticket offices and cutting staff LU will save about £50m a year or £270m by 2020-21.

Also you would also think the ticket offices will be available for use as retail space another income stream for LU.

There is no doubt these proposals are some of the most radical the LU has ever seen.

Will commuters be concerned at closing all ticket offices? Can technology fill the gap?

Will LU management and the mayor listen to the unions? Or will this be a repeat of 2010?

Insiders say there is plenty of time to make progress in talks - could we see compromise in the staff reductions?

The first 48-hour strike starts on 4 February.

Tom Edwards, Transport correspondent, London Article written by Tom Edwards Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    So, you're CLEARLY not aware of the strike action. RMT members will not engage in any activity related to revenue generation. This means that actually, all those people will get free travel on one of the best underground systems in the world.
    AND ANYWAY, who gives a toss if a few gaming nerds can't get to a conference. Somewhat less important than people's livelihoods. Get some perspective!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Just in time for the ICE exhibition at the ExCel centre on those days. I feel for the exhibitors who have spent months preparing only to be scuppered by Bob Crow. 20,000 people from 126 countries went last year, which means this many people from far & wide will see the joke of a transport system in London - it's embarrassing and the RMT should be ashamed of making the country look so foolish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I'd like to know how the railcard addition will work if the ticket offices are closed. At the moment a 16-23 railcard can only be added in person to an existing Oystercard at a station office!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    As long as there are staff on the gate line when trains are running (as proposed) I see no issue. Given that technology allows them to run driverless trains (Jubilee Line drivers are already effectively just there for the ride) and that drivers are the most expensive employees they should start on that agenda too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    What happens when the machines break? There won't be any excess fares windows at the other end. Help for the lost? Discrimination against occasional and out of hours travellers? Not impressed and just for once think the RMT have something of a case - and I never thought I'd hear myself saying that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    2/3rds of the money spent of the tube goes on staff - that's a lot considering the maintenance and upgrades costs; anyway to reduce that can only be a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    If you're a regular commuter it is quite possible that you do not need to use a ticket office at all. What about the tourists? The day trippers? I would understand closing offices out in the sticks. Closing every single one in Central London does not strike me as good for business. Ticket machines don't accept crumpled notes, Scottish notes, non chip&pin cards. Are these people not allowed travel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Seriously though, when was the last time anyone used a ticket office? For me it was about 2 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Striking similarities with how some of the train operating companies run their ticket offices. My local Metro Southern station is frequently staffed by just one member of 'security' with the ticket office closed and passengers forced to use one of two ticket machines.



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