3 reasons why the Tube strike MUST go ahead

The London Underground is one of the capital’s vital organs. Life without it is unthinkable, and over three million people utilise the subterranean trains every day.

Passenger numbers hit a record high in 2013/14, with an incredible 1.265 billion customers passing through the barriers. This marked a 3% rise in passengers since 2012/13.

Investment in the Underground has seen delays fall by an astonishing 54% since 2004, and signal problems and track faults fell to their lowest recorded levels over 2013/14, according to London Underground.

In these ways, the Tube has never been so good.

But in May, transport watchdog London TravelWatch highlighted overcrowding as a major concern for the Tube and said the service needed to increase its capacity to ensure passenger safety.

In addition, Londoners have been plagued by no less than five Tube Strikes this year, while even more have been averted.

The current strike in question is over ticket office closures – Transport for London hopes to save £50m a year through closing the ticket offices and cutting jobs. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), have been advised not to book onto shifts on the Tube between 9pm on Tuesday October 14 and 8.59pm on Thursday October 16.

The chaos and inconvenience caused is considerable. So why argue that a Tube strike next week must go ahead?

Here are three reasons:

1. Safety and numbers

We take the Tube for granted at our peril. Londoners must be able to depend on a slick and comfortable transport service. As passenger numbers swell to new highs, managing the millions that use the Tube naturally becomes harder. Working to help maintain the standards customers expect requires London Underground to have a motivated, secure workforce, proud of their jobs and the service they help deliver to Londoners. Do we really want fewer staff on hand? Is that sensible? 

According to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, the cuts “would de-staff whole areas of the Tube system at a time of surging passenger demand and would make evacuation and other basic safety procedures a physical impossibility.”

He adds: “The axing of ticket offices and station staffing grades would render the Tube a no-go zone for many people with disabilities and for women travelling alone. The cuts ignore the realities of life that we saw when services broke down last week and the recent surveys which point to an increase in violence and sexual assaults.”

2. In defence of the ticket office

The success of the Oyster Card means that a significant majority of seasoned Londoners can top-up and swipe their way into the Tube with ease, avoiding queues and saving time. But the millions of tourists and newbies who enter the Tube without an Oyster Card must also be remembered. Where’s the natural place to find out about the Oyster system and buy a card? It’s the Tube ticket office. What about advice on how to get around the UK’s biggest city? It’s helpful to have a trained official at hand. Not sure if you can use your ticket between the Tube, the DLR, the buses, the Overground and the trains? The staff at the ticket office have the answer.

3. What’s at stake?

Jobs

If you were in a union and your job was at risk, wouldn’t you be taking action too?  Under the proposals, almost 1,000 jobs would go. And is this the tip of the iceberg? In April RMT said that this is “just a first tranche of cuts with even harder attacks being lined up for the near future.”

Inconvenience

Should the strikes go ahead, there is no doubt it will impact Londoners. Recent strikes hit particular lines causing them to be closed, while strikes earlier this year saw skeleton staff operating a reduced service across many lines, causing serious transport trouble.

But on balance, 48 hours of transport trouble with a week’s notice means that contingency plans can be made. Most journeys within London are faster by bike than by any other form of transport anyway.

Support

Supporting the Tube strikes does not mean you oppose use of the Tube and want to see disruption. Rather it indicates support for a more human service, a safer environment and for the long-term success of a fantastic asset.

 

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