Friday, 22 November 2013

24 hour tube: pros & cons

Boris Johnson made a spectacular announcement yesterday that the tube was to run, on the main arterial lines, 24 hours a day on Friday and Saturday from 2015. Reaction from the travelling public has been almost universally positive, as you might expect, not least because we won't now be forced to pay extortionate black cab fares anymore.

As with everything from this Mayor, however, it is worth looking beyond the headlines to what he is really planning to do. Boris is an expert media manager, so lets ask ourselves why he has chosen to release two pieces of news together - 24 hour opening and a ticket office closure programme. 

The TSSA Union has not unreasonably pointed out that Boris' manifesto of 2008 declared that he would protect every ticket office from closure, underlining their link to passenger safety. Yesterday's announcement sees the closure of almost every single ticket office. 

TSSA campaign ad
Transport for London, of which the Mayor is Chairman, has said that ticket office staff will be moved out of the closing offices and onto the station concourses, aided by hand held devices to assist passengers with information about services. Sounds OK, but it is clearly not the full story since 750 posts will also be shed. There is not any more detail about what these staff will be doing and when, nor is there any confirmation that the job losses will be the result of natural wastage or lay offs.

Speaking in response to the announcement, London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi sounded concerns over the potential impact on passenger safety:
“These plans are deeply worrying and could lead to a significant reduction in the service Londoners receive in our great city. The mayor was elected on a clear promise to keep ticket offices open. The last thing we need is a reduction in frontline staff. No station should be unstaffed while trains are running. At a time when fares are going up above inflation this is the very least Londoners should expect. 
“We need to make sure there are enough staff on duty to keep our stations safe, help passengers and deal with emergencies. We must protect standards of service and passenger safety. We believe there should be a Passenger’s Charter clearly setting out what Londoners can expect from their transport system. Passengers must be able to get help with tickets, refunds, information and access must be ensured for disabled people.”
Overall the 24 hour tube has got to be a good thing, surely. I don't have any sympathy with the likes of the RMT who are already gearing up for strike action; they long ago lost credibility with passengers by continually striking for more money while many passengers were losing their jobs. 

But safety surely has got to be an area where much, much more detail is required and that goes way beyond the razamattaz over 24 hour opening. By linking the two the Mayor is employing a time honoured media management tactic of tying two pieces of news together in the knowledge that one of them will overshadow the other. A light needs to be shone on the detail of how the ticket office closure programme will be managed across the network and its implications for routine and emergency security.

No comments:

Post a Comment