Driverless trains

The NewsEditor

This news, on the planned purchase of new trains for the Underground, probably didn't lighten the mood at the ongoing negotiations between LU, the RMT and TSSA:

These would be the first London Tube trains without drivers’ cabs and part of a fleet of 200 new trains that are part of a £10bn upgrade of four of the network’s deep lines over the next 20 years.

The Standard actually had the scoop a few days ago, but the FT fills in some detail, including that the first order for Piccadilly Line trains could be placed in just a few days.

Reaction from the Unions has been apoplectic with Mick Whelan, Secretary General of Aslef, suggesting 'all out war' in an attempt to stop the plans from going ahead. Noises from Bob Crow have been similarly threatening, despite LU's guarantee that every Tube driver has a 'job for life'.

One wonders whether the Mayor would benefit from spending some time with the conciliation folks over at ACAS. Or perhaps this is part of his 'plan'. After all, there are noises that the Conservatives in Westminster might introduce tighter strike rules if re-elected. Is this an effort to draw out a massive strike and harden hearts against the unions? Or is LondonUnlocked just getting paranoid?

The Mayor made a gesture of thanks towards those who crossed pickets and worked during the last 48hr strike. Even if that does buy some sympathy, it's not likely to make a dent against industrial action by drivers. As the FT says, it "would cripple the network, in contrast to the action by station staff earlier this month."

The Tube does need to keep modernising and improving. Some measure of staff reallocation (out of ticket offices) and automation of the network will inevitably be part of that. But crippling strikes help no-one. Let's hope that cooler heads prevail as this story develops.