Currently the Tube unions are in dispute with London Underground because of the proposal to close ticket offices. The Evening Standard reports that the RMT’s Bob Crow is also gearing up for a row over driverless trains, he is fighting on the wrong issues.
Both the changes to ticket offices and the move to driverless trains is about using technology to reconnect Tube staff with passengers. Back when Tube stations were built cash transactions were the norm and ticket offices needed to be separate and secure. The glass screen was essential for the protection of what could be large sums of cash held at the stations. Now that tickets are regularly bought from ticket machines in the ticket hall, on-line or even superseded by touch technology debit cards the need for physical segregation has gone.
This now means that, rather than having tube staff stuck in booths, they can get out onto the platforms and ticket halls where the passengers are to provide help, guidance and support.
Again, the modernisation of signalling and train technology means that it is no longer necessary to have someone sat in a cab at the front of a tube train. This technology is already in use on the DLR and underground systems around the world. It means that Tube staff are liberated to move along the underground carriage providing help and reassurance to the passengers.
The staff on London’s Tube network are one of the real strengths of the system and the regularity that I hear friendly and humorous messages over the public address system or written on the information boards proves this.
The proposed changes will increase the interaction between staff and passengers and the Tube will be a better place for it. Technology is helping to re-humanise the Tube and the RMT are wrong to oppose it.