London mayor Boris Johnson says world has changed since he pledged to keep London Underground ticket offices open – but unions stage walkout

Tube services in London were severely disrupted this week by the first of two 48-hour stoppages by the RMT and TSSA unions. The industrial action is over plans to close all London Underground ticket offices, with London mayor Boris Johnson claiming that the move is in response to fast-evolving technology.

Hours before the strike was due to begin, Johnson clashed with RMT union leader Bob Crow live on LBC radio. Crow reminded the mayor that before being elected in 2008, he had promised not to close ticket offices.

Johnson replied: “That was six or seven years ago now. What’s happened since then are there has been massive investment in technology and fewer and fewer people actually use ticket offices.

“When I started talking about ticket offices the iPhone wasn’t even invented, for heaven’s sake.”

Industry sources said the dispute at LU could be a forerunner of similar industrial relations issues across the national rail network.

LU says the closures reflect near completion of the shift in sales away from ticket offices since the introduction of smartcards. Less than 3% of all Tube journeys now involve a visit to a ticket office.

There will be no compulsory redundancies if staff are prepared to move to new customer service posts on platforms and gatelines. Staff will be equipped with mobile technology, such as tablet computers, to enable them to monitor and manage stations.

TfL claims that 82% of Londoners polled said they were in favour of the changes.

Meanwhile, technology was last week cited as the reason for TfL’s controversial decision to cease accepting cash fares on buses from this summer.


Further coverage can be found inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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