Yesterday, at 6:30pm marked the start of yet another strike by unionised tube drivers in London.
With pay of £50k a year and nearly two months holiday, and a 36 hour week, the Unions are upset at the introduction of the Night Tube and the disruption this will cause to work-life balance. Thankfully for them, their employer is almost 100 years past being a startup… It certainly doesn’t work for most of us in 2015.
I have had to reorganise ten meetings and a dinner date, and I l am fortunate to live in Central
London, so it is much easier to get around the strike. For many others, the disruption is even more costly.
There seems to be an obvious solution to this continuing disruption – driverless trains. In a city that aims to be both a technology hub of Europe, and a showcase for a new generation of smart city, it really is a no-brainer. The outlook for automated trains, however, is not good. Some existing lines, such as the Victoria and Jubilee lines are already operated by a form of automatic train control, although not fully automated. The driver simply opens the doors. There are a number of upgrades apparently coming to the network. Starting with a technology upgrade to the Circle, Metropolitan and District Lines that will allow driverless control.
Many Tube workers already work 24 hour shifts. Contrary to popular opinion, Tube workers are not against the 24 hour Night train. However, many stations will be halved and with budget cuts, they would like more staff available during peak times in addition to their pay being commensurate with the amount of traffic on the Tube. They also fear that being understaffed during unsociable hours will put more risk to female travellers being attacked on the Tube.
Thales just got awarded the contract and it will be delivered in 2022. But don’t hold your breath, this is the same contract that was awarded to Bombardier in 2011, due for completion in 2018 and ripped up by TFL at a cost of £85m because they didn’t believe that they could actually deliver the contract. Next up are new trains on the deep level lines, starting with the Piccadilly Line in 2022. Unfortunately, although capable, not actually I would have thought that the city that dominates in tech innovation would be able to push ahead farther and faster with tech advances, on the infrastructure under our feet, which allows this city to function.
By Ashok Parekh