London Underground bosses have dismissed union claims that a systems failure on the Jubilee Line “exposed the lethal danger of Mayor Boris Johnson and TFL’s plans to bring in driverless trains.”
In what it describes as a “major emergency”, the RMT union says “screens in the control on the Jubilee Line went blank for 55 minutes from 18.50 hrs as main and back-up systems failed.
“Control did not know where units were in the deep tube system covered by the line.”
The comments come after it emerged London Underground is considering expanding the number of so-called driverless trains on the network.
The Mayor has faced pressure from some business groups and Conservative London Assembly Members to increase automation on the Tube in the wake of strikes.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “The Jubilee Line is already heavily automated but this incident shows that you still need drivers to move into manual mode and take over when something goes wrong.
“Those from the Tory party banging the drum for driverless operation should read this report and hang their heads in shame. Their political game playing is literally dicing with death.
“Thousands of passengers relied on train and platform staff to get them safely through Friday night’s emergency and those arguing to axe those same staff stand accused of gross and criminal negligence.”
However LU chief operating officer Howard Collins said the union’s claims “are without foundation.”
Collins said: “Driverless trains have been in operation across the world for decades, including on the DLR, one of the most efficient railways anywhere in Europe. Automated train operation has been used on the Victoria line for the last 40 years, and on the Central line since the 1990s.
“There will always be a need for staff in running our train services, just as there is on the DLR, but that role that they play needs to change if the Tube is to be a truly 21st century railway.”
Apologising to passengers for last week’s disruption, Collins said LU was “pressing our contractors Thales to provide assurances that this will not happen again” and insisted “at no point were passengers at risk, as the system prevented trains from moving into close proximity of each other.”