Mayor Boris Johnson today unveiled one of the most radical overhauls of the Tube network in its 150 year history.
The Mayor and London Underground Boss Mike Brown announced that all ticket offices would close with the loss of 750 jobs and the introduction of a new weekend Night Tube service.
Instead of being based in ticket offices and back rooms, LU says staff will be equipped with “the latest mobile technology” to allow them to monitor and manage stations while on the move.
Asked whether he could reduce front-line job losses by cutting the number of highly paid Transport for London executives, Mr Johnson said he’d already cut numbers by 25% and insisted there would be no compulsory redundancies.
Despite the job cuts, LU promises that “all Tube stations will continue to be staffed” with “more staff visible” and greater numbers available in ticket halls and on gate lines.
Mr Brown said the technology needed to support the changes had already been successfully trailed during last summer’s Olympics.
He also dismissed earlier union claims that the changes would risk passenger safety, saying he was proud of the Tube’s record as Europe’s safest rail service and would do nothing which jeopardised the public.
Ticket office closures were first proposed in 2007 by former Mayor Ken Livingstone and were opposed by Mayor Johnson during the 2008 election. However he today insisted that moving staff out of offices was the best way of meeting changing customer habits.
Labour London Assembly Member Len Duvall branded the changes as “deeply worrying” and claimed they “could lead to a significant reduction in the service Londoners and visitors receive in our great city.”
Mr Duvall also called for a Passenger’s Charter which sets out the service levels Londoners can expect and guarantees help with tickets, refunds, information and access for disabled people.
Robert Harris from Guide Dogs welcomed today’s changes, saying: “Guide Dogs is in favour of any initiative that improves face to face customer service and assistance at busy transport hubs.
“TfL’s proposals appear to set out to achieve this, increasing numbers of face to face staff at points where entering the Tube system can be a challenge for any person who is blind or partially sighted.”
Mr Harris said his organisation would work with TfL “to ensure that any changes to staffing at stations are made with our clients in mind to continue to give them confidence to use the Tube system.”
However Lianna Etkind from campaign group Transport for All said the changes could leave disabled Londoners struggling “to travel to work, see friends and family, and get out and about in the capital.”
Although ticket offices are closing, LU says it will retain Visitor Information Centres at the six biggest stations to assist tourists and visitors to the capital.
Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, said closing ticket offices at busy stations as Waterloo and London Bridge was “a step too far”.
She added: “Providing ‘Visitor Information Centres’ at just six major London stations is totally inadequate.
|Tourists and visitors to London need to be able to easily find someone if they are buying a ticket for the first time. Hunting down a member of staff within a crowded station is not the same as being able to easily locate a ticket office.”
The new Night Tube will run from 2015 on the Piccadilly, Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines and “key sections” of the Northern line. LU say the service will be expanded in future years to include other lines.
Mr Johnson told journalists that a 24-hour Tube was the enhancement most requested of him by Londoners and said the service would “boost” London’s night time economy by making it easier for people to enjoy the capital’s night spots without worrying how they’d get home.
He also said the service would “further cement London’s reputation as the best big city on the planet to in which to live, work, visit and invest.”