Leaked Tube document: Could it signal real changes?

Monday's big story was the leaked documents that outlined radical proposals of what the Tube could look like in a decade's time.

It included plans for more automation on the trains and the scrapping of nearly all ticket offices, as well as the closure of 1,500 posts.

London Underground (LU) denies any of this is policy.

It might not be - we won't know that for some time - but the document does give you a distinct impression of the direction the Tube is evolving.

The document talks about "a strategic plan narrative".

Union resistance

Already thanks to the upgrade, the Jubilee line is now semi-automated along with the Victoria and Central lines. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) operates with train captains closing the doors and not drivers.

It does not take a big leap of the imagination to see train drivers' cabs being scrapped on later upgrades - the report mentions the Bakerloo.

Arguably, it would be better for the passengers although it would no doubt meet with fierce resistance from drivers' unions.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The document looks at reducing operational costs by up to 20% over the next 10 years

The big development for commuters would be the change in ticketing across London.

It's called Wave & Pay, where you use your debit card to pay for journeys and this part of the report isn't denied by LU. In fact, a trial starts on the buses using this technology next year and if it's successful expect to see it rolled out in the near future.

The report states: "A declining emphasis on ticket offices will see ticket hall staff assisting customers to purchase travel at the machines or facilitating customers to Wave & Pay with their bank cards without the need to purchase a separate ticket."

Oyster scrapped?

So, is this the beginning of the end of the Oyster card?

LU bosses told me on Monday they couldn't see the Oyster card being phased out totally - they'd probably keep it for tourists and those without bank accounts.

But if everyone switches to Wave & Pay you'd think it would only be a matter of time before the Oyster card was scrapped.

Also, a lot of people have asked me if they thought LU was perhaps testing these proposals to see how they fared.

There is a very interesting line that indicates LU knew the proposals could eventually become public: "This document... is not intended to reflect or represent any formal TfL/LUL views or policy.

"Its subject matter may relate to matters which would be subject to consultation. Its contents are confidential and should not be disclosed to any unauthorised persons."

Knowing the proposals will probably leak, and actually wanting that to happen, are two very different things.

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