Boris Johnson has been accused of reneging on a key election commitment not ensure “there is always a manned ticket office at every station” on the Underground.
The accusation comes after the Mayor and Transport for London announced a new “vision” for the network which they say will deliver a “a safe, efficient and transformed Tube for the future.”
Under the proposals, which promise greater numbers of trains and increased reliability, London Underground are guaranteeing staff will be available “in ticket halls, at gate lines or on platforms” but ticket offices at some stations will see opening hours reduced.
LU’s Managing Director, Richard Parry, said: “London Underground is committed to continuing to provide a safe and reliable service while operating even more services as we upgrade lines, create more capacity and respond to the changing requirements of our customers. We’ve set out these proposals today because we want to work with our staff, trades unions, customers and key stakeholders to ensure that we can deliver the best customer service more efficiently.”
Transport chiefs say the successful take up of Oyster means “just one Tube journey in 20 now begins with a ticket office transaction” although LU concedes “many customers still value the service provided at ticket offices, particularly during peak hours and at busy stations.”
The proposals set out today are expected to lead to the loss of around 800 posts although LU says it is “committed to delivering this change without the need for any compulsory redundancies by not filling vacancies and re-focusing staff to areas of greater customer need.”
Parry said his team would “first seek to avoid filling vacancies and redeploy staff to areas where they will be needed in future.”
Today’s announcement has been condemned by parties on the London Assembly.
Labour’s Val Shawcross said the announcement was “the latest in a long line of broken Boris Johnson promises” and warned ” cuts at outer London stations will make them less safe and passengers feel less secure. The Tory administration in London that casually breaks its promises to Londoners shows David Cameron’s party hasn’t changed.”
Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Transport spokesperson, said today’s proposals “will inconvenience Londoners, will make many passengers feel unsafe and can only mean a reduction in the assistance available to passengers, particularly the elderly and disabled.”
Meanwhile passenger watchdog London TravelWatch said it wanted to see the details of the proposals but said it “would be concerned to see ticket office hours reduced at busy stations and interchanges and at busy times, especially for tourists and visitors to London who may well not use Oyster cards.”
The RMT union has been claiming for months that transport bosses were planning “savage reductions” across the tube network. In December it accused the Mayor of planning to “reduce” 144 stations to “ticket machines only”.
Plans to reduce ticket offices were originally put forward by Ken Livingstone in 2007. In his 2008 election manifesto Johnson wrote: “Ken Livingstone plans to close a large number of ticket offices at Tube stations, predominantly in outer London because he claims that the increase in Oyster use has made them surplus to requirements. However, what he has not taken into account is that local people feel it is important there is a manned ticket office at their station, as often there are not enough Oyster outlets in the local area.
There has been little consultation with local residents, and I think it is wrong that some local stations could lose this service. I will stop the planned ticket office closures, and focus on increasing the number of Oyster outlets in outer London so local people have greater access to Oyster.”
He also signed a petition against plans to “drastically reduce the opening hours” of surviving ticket offices.