Renewed talk of London Underground ticket office closures offers a potentially exciting possibility for squeezing value from our public estate which I think deserves some consideration.
During the early stages of the then draft police and crime plan, Boris and policing Deputy Stephen Greenhalgh committed the Met to opening new contact points out and about in the community.
Post Offices, cafes, local council offices and even supermarkets were all mentioned as possible venues. The idea has since become an inconvenient promise, thanks in part to problems finding space which the Met can afford and the suitability of venues.
One way forward could be to convert some of the soon to be empty ticket offices into fully Met Police branded contact points, open throughout the station’s normal operating hours.
Unlike many of the mooted sites, Tube stations are in widely known, busy locations, open late into the night and already have secure, purpose-built counters.
Plus, they’re owned ultimately by the Mayor who can provide them to his police force at little or no cost.
Adding an icon to the Tube map, already available across the entire network, online, in diaries and smartphone apps, would allow the Met to easily publicise the location of these new contact points.
And there are probably a few parts of the Tube network which would benefit from a permanent police presence.
Many of the reforms now under way to London’s public services will free up space which can be sold, but the realignment of the Tube network to real-world usage risks creating lots of void counters which will cease to have any public use.
This idea would allow us to get value from parts of the public estate which can’t be sold or rented out to third parties and addresses the concerns of those who say police reforms will make the Met remote and inaccessible.