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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RMT in a stew over Driverless Tube Trains by 2021

The old chestnut about the prospect of driverless London Underground trains is in the news again after the RMT "
leaked" a TfL paper stating that driverless trains could run across the network within 10 years.

Driverless Tube Trains by 2021

The Operational Strategy Discussion Paper says that this along with mass ticket office closures and a contactless method of paying for London travel (bye bye Oyster) could save £2 billion by 2018.

The RMT's leader Bob Crow said the plans were "a blueprint for jobs and safety carnage". He continued "Every single ticket office would be closed, stations left unstaffed and drivers would be thrown out of their cabs without a single thought for passenger safety.......RMT will work with our sister Tube unions and passenger groups on a campaign to ensure that this document and its proposals are consigned to the dustbin of history".

London Underground Managing Director, Mike Brown, responded with the following comments to The Evening Standard

"This plan shows how the LU operational model will evolve to meet the changes of the next decade. It delivers taxpayer value through a significant reduction of the cost of operations"

"The Tube is now carrying 1.1 billion passengers a year. Londoners want a modern, safe, economical and efficient Underground. This discussion paper contains some suggestions as to how that might be achieved

On the front page of The Standard, the story continues inside with thoughts from commuters who seem more than happy with the prospect of driverless Tube trains. The Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines already run in semi-automatic role and apparently little practical change is needed to operate without a driver. The DLR also has driverless trains.

One of the people that The Standard interviewed said "Driverless trains are a fantastic idea. I think Tube drivers are the most overpaid people in London."

Another said: "I am totally behind anything that would make London transport quicker than it already is."

A third agreed: "I think this is an excellent idea, efficiency and effectiveness are necessary. We can put savings to good use."

The jury's still out for me. Sure I get that there are lots of efficiencies to be made, personally, to me, it still feels a little weird not seeing a driver on the DLR (even though I know it's been like that for years and years and there are also people on the train to make sure bags and coats and limbs don't get stuck in closing doors). The RMT's argument is that a lot of drivers also helped passengers during the 7/7 terrorist attacks and there would be no-one to assist in another emergency like that.

Even if there were automated trains it's not likely to stop strike action (this whole thing is definitely a move by Boris Johnson to take away the unions' power to hold the country to ransom over strikes). Someone somewhere still has to operate the computers that operate the trains & the likelihood is that those people will belong to rail unions.

At the moment these are only plans but like it or not, I believe that in time more driverless trains will be rolled out. Smart ways of paying your fares will also be rolled out & unfortunately that means that fewer people will be needed to run ticket offices & get involved with managing the Oyster system.

What are your thoughts? Are you concerned about the safety issues of not having drivers? Do you think that mass ticket office closures will lead to platforms & stations becoming a "paradise" for vandals & muggers as Crow suggests?

Related Posts
Tory Group want Driverless Tube Trains
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Barclays & Oyster Tie the Knot - planning contactless payment systems

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