Night Tube service 'will not happen this year'

Night Tube logo
Image caption Unions are unhappy at conditions offered to drivers working on the new Night Tube service

An all-night service on the London Underground (LU) will not be introduced this year after talks broke up without agreement, unions have said.

The Night Tube was due to begin last month but was delayed over a dispute about staff pay and conditions.

Finn Brennan, from train drivers' union Aslef, said discussions had broken up because LU management had "mishandled these negotiations".

Transport for London (TfL) blamed unions for delaying the service.

It said "a fair and sustainable pay offer and cast-iron guarantees on work-life balance" had been offered but unions had not put this to their members and came up with last-minute demands.

'Perpetual dithering'

A 24-hour service on the Jubilee, Victoria, Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines had been due to start at weekends on 12 September.

Unions took industrial action during the summer having called for increased pay and a limit on how many all-night shifts their members would be asked to do.

The conciliation service Acas said in a statement: "Acas held talks today in respect of the current London Underground dispute. Talks adjourned today and the parties are reflecting upon their positions. There are no further talks planned at this current time."

London Mayor Boris Johnson has previously said he was "relaxed" about when the service was introduced, as long as it happened before the end of autumn.

Mr Brennan said unions had "put forward a number of proposals to resolve this dispute" but these had been "rejected".

"They [London Underground] have wasted every opportunity for a settlement and seem to have been determined to provoke confrontation rather than resolution," he said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Strikes over the summer shut down the entire Tube network

Analysis by BBC London transport correspondent Tom Edwards

These night tube talks between the Unions and London Underground have been long and tortuous with more twists and turns than an EastEnders' plot.

Everyone seems to want a Night Tube but the slowest of molluscs would embarrass the rate of progress at these talks.

We still do not have a date for the Night Tube but it looks like the last deadline of "autumn" has shifted again.

The mayor and London Underground were never really wed to a set date - they said "not at any cost" - and it does seem the talks have run out of time.

The unions would need to consult their members on any deal and it would take 28 days to introduce the new rosters.

Also - and this is a point made to me by a few people - introducing a new 24-hour service during London's raucous party season in mid-December would not be ideal.

Famously, decimalisation was introduced on 15 February 1971 - one of the quietest weeks of the year.

Mick Cash, from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), said it was a "no-win situation" for Londoners and Tube staff and called for the talks to get back on track.

"RMT is frankly astounded that Boris Johnson has rung his officials from Japan and instructed them to kick the Night Tube into next year," he said.

Labour London Assembly Member Val Shawcross said the decision was a "major disappointment to businesses and Londoners" and accused Mr Johnson of "perpetual dithering over the project".

Steve Griffiths, chief operating officer for LU, said "significant progress" had been made during discussions and the pay and conditions offer would be presented to staff to get their views.

500,000 jobs

"Not only are the unions at risk of depriving millions of customers of their Night Tube service, they are depriving employees of a very fair pay offer and longer term opportunities to improve work life balance even further," he said.

TfL first announced plans for the Night Tube in September 2014 and said trains would run on Fridays and Saturdays with six trains per hour through central London on five Tube lines.

On the Northern Line, there would have been eight trains an hour to meet demand at busy stations between Leicester Square and Camden Town, TfL said.

LU claims the Night Tube is needed to deal with huge demand from passengers, especially at weekends, and is "pivotal" to the city's economy. Chancellor George Osborne and Mr Johnson said it would add £6.4bn to the London economy by 2030 and create 500,000 new jobs.

It was also announced in February the night-time services would be extended to the Metropolitan, Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines by 2021 and extended to the London Overground in 2017 and the Docklands Light Railway by 2021.

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