We have all become accustomed to automatic ticketing, whether by Oyster or bank card or mobile. Old ticket offices will now serve as coffee shops, and heel bars, and mini-markets and newsagents and click-and-collect depots. The new businesses will pay rents to TfL (and corporation tax to the Government) and they will be of considerably more value to passengers than keeping staff trapped behind plate glass.
So why go on strike? No one – not even the union members – seriously believes that the action will achieve a darned thing. The strike promises to be nothing more than a pointless inconvenience. Everyone sensible has condemned it – including Zac Goldsmith, who I hope will follow me as Mayor of London.
There is one glaring exception, one voice we need to hear – and that is the candidate of the Labour party, Sadiq Khan. Why won’t he just say unequivocally, loud and clear, that the RMT leadership is wrong to put its members through this madness – not to mention the travelling public? Come on, Khan: man up. This is a golden opportunity to make a statement of the blindingly obvious. Denounce this bonkers strike.
Will he? Of course not. He will weasel around with all sorts of nonsense about how he would “get people round the table” or “bang heads together” – all of which blather achieves nothing except to undermine TfL management. He’ll blame TfL. He will blame me (of course!). He will blame everyone except the people responsible – the leadership of the RMT.
He would not dream of coming straight out and condemning this nonsensical strike because he is the creature of the unions; he is their patsy and their plaything. Of course he is. They bought him when they paid £141,306 into his Mayoral campaign coffers – Unite, TSSA, the lot of them.
How can anyone rely on Sadiq Khan to make sensible use of technology and drive forward the modernisation of the underground? Every single one of these changes – from ticket office closures to the Night Tube to automation of the trains – has been achieved in the teeth of union resistance. Look at the record: what happened when Labour last ran London.
Transport for London officials first proposed closure of ticket offices to Ken Livingstone, more than 10 years ago. He nervously agreed – then chickened out when his union chums cut up rough. It was way back in 2007, under Livingstone, that Tube management suggested they might be able to run services late on Friday and Saturday nights (though not yet a full Night Tube).
Livingstone announced the plan – and then had to drop it when the unions refused to play ball. I am reliably informed – and the Labour candidate should be volubly challenged on this point – that Sadiq Khan has promised Livingstone that he will make him the chair of TfL. They are trying to put the band back together!
"There is a huge risk that London is about to lurch backwards to the Jurassic age, ruled by saurian socialists such as Livingstone and Corbyn"
We now need to proceed with full automation of the service, like the best Asian metros, with driverless trains. Of course the unions hate the idea, even though it would deliver a better, faster and more reliable service. Can you imagine Khan, or the unions – let alone Livingstone – allowing it to happen?
Khan wants to bring back “check-off” to make it easier for unions to take subs from employees; he wants electronic balloting for strikes, to make them easier to hold. His policies would cost TfL billions, and to cap it all he wants to take £2bn out of the fare box with his unaffordable fares freeze. That would make it impossible to deliver some of the big-ticket transport improvements that are so vital for building the housing London needs.
How would Khan and Labour try to plug the gap? By whacking up council tax or putting in new congestion charges. Even then it wouldn’t add up. They would certainly have to look at taking away much-loved concessions such as the Freedom Pass.
There is a huge risk that London is about to lurch backwards to the Jurassic age, ruled by saurian socialists such as Livingstone and Corbyn. Passengers who desperately need continued improvement are in danger of becoming Labour’s lab rats – a Corbynista experiment under Khan. Don’t let it happen. Back Zac and crack on with modernising the greatest city on earth.