Rejoice, commuters of London: the three-day Tube strike planned for this week has been called off. But before you get too complacent, there are battles far bigger than ticket hall closure ahead. TfL want to introduce a new fleet of 250 fully automated trains, and their plans aren’t going down well. In fact, drivers' union Aslef have said this will lead to an 'all-out war'.
The RMT and Aslef are both up in arms, claiming that they will strike ‘indefinitely’ over concerns not only for train drivers' jobs, but for passenger safety. They say the idea of a driverless train is ‘lethal and ill-conceived’. ‘I really don’t think that people are going to be happy stuck in a metal box underground in an emergency without a person there’ says Finn Brennan, a train driver and Aslef union official.
But TfL say that the technology is already being used. On the Victoria Line, drivers are only needed to open and close doors and start the train moving. A computer does the rest, which means that services are able to run far more frequently. The jump from this to a fully automated service is only an ‘extra small step’, according to Gareth Powell, London Underground’s director of strategy and service development. With London's population expected to grow by another 10m by 2031, an upgrade to the transport system is an inevitable necessity. This new system would mean that extra trains could be quickly drafted in at sudden moments of crowding, after matches, for example.
What do you think? Would you support a strike against fully automated trains, or would you prefer that all trains have a driver on-board? Are Tube strikes too disruptive?