back to article Union enraged by secret driverless Tube plan

Unionists are up in arms today after a report showed Transport for London (TfL) investigated new technologies that would have led to job cuts. The report, leaked by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMT), is a strategy discussion of driverless Tube trains and a 'wave and pay' ticketing system that would let commuters use …


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  1. Annihilator Silver badge


    "It would leave passengers stranded in tunnels with no means of evacuation and would turn the platforms and stations into a muggers' and vandals' paradise"

    The DLR has been an example for almost 25 years of how this system could work. I'm amazed it hasn't been considered or leaked before. If it's anything like that, the trains wouldn't be staff-less.

    Though not sure how they'd reduce operating costs if the trains were still staffed...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and tbh when is the last time anyone saw a tfl staff member actually on a tube train whilst it's moving (don't know about dlr, whenever I want to use it it's a weekend where they've decided to turn the trains off.) Every now and again I see them at the end of the line picking up litter. Also on the platforms at peak times to try and maintain a semblance of order.

      The being stranded in a tunnel may be a thought, but what's one tube driver going to do at the moment? I'm pretty sure the standard mo is to be stranded in the tunnel anyway and occasinoally some bloke saying "sorry about the signal failure / corpse on the line / etc" and that can easily be done remotely.

      The drivers are just a waste of space, hire some more engineers and do the engineering work like Japan, thousands appearing from nowhere at 1am to fix things and then all vanishing at 5am (hell they even lift up entire segments of the road on the surface.)

      1. Drew V.
        Thumb Up

        The irony of the Japanese example here....

        You are right, the Japanese employ enormous numbers of engineers and cleaning crew to make the whole system run like clockwork, usually working at night. And at the same time, the systems themselves contain many automated, advanced components that require little human input.

        BUT, and this is where the irony comes in, neither have they stopped manning the trains and stations with surprisingly numerous employees:

        - There isn't just a driver, often (in Osaka, for example) there is a guy at the back of the last wagon, checking whether the crowds have got in okay and the doors can close.

        - Even though the ticketing systems are mostly automated, long-distance trains still have people going down the length of the train to check, anyway.

        - In the big stations you actually have guys standing around waiting for every train to arrive, apparently doing little more than keeping an eye on things and calling around information.

        - Finally, in Tokyo occasionallly you still have those silk-gloved attendants who literally push the crowds into the trains during rush hour.

        In short, to the Japanese, highly advanced public transport still needs numerous human employees in order to provide the best possible experience to the travellers. They value both the engineering AND the human presence. This is by far the best philosophy, IMO, but it's not the cheapest approach obviously.

        1. Craig 12

          I never saw the people being pushed on in the rush hour (the people managed it by themselves!), but I did see people employed to scrape chewing gum up, wipe down handrails etc. The Japanese way seems to be employ someone for every menial task possible, I guess to keep employment up (and increase sales of white gloves).

          My rambling point is however, I encountered several late or cancelled JR trains in Tokyo this month. It's a brilliant myth that their trains are so good :)

          I'm all for automatic/driverless systems if it means running costs are cheaper/better service. Couldn't a driverless tube system be 24/7 ?

          1. Annihilator Silver badge


            "Couldn't a driverless tube system be 24/7 ?"

            I driver-tube system could be 24/7, much like the bus network. The reason it's not is due to required maintenance windows each night. The tube is constantly being serviced.

          2. Drew V.

            @Craig 12

            They have indeed made it a society-wide rule that it is always better to have too many employees than to have too few. All those low-paid menial jobs are indeed to keep unemployment down. Also because there is much more social and psychological pressure to make yourself useful to society...even if it is just scraping gum off the handrails for a living.

            I lived and commuted in Tokyo for a year and no train was ever late by more than a minute, except on those few occasions when someone killed themselves jumping in front of one. Maybe it was a particularly bad month for suicides when you were there.

            Still the finest public transport in the world, IMO. No offense meant to the folks employed by British rail companies, but BR is more like the very opposite.

        2. Hatless Pemberty

          Seppuku anyone?

          "In short, to the Japanese, highly advanced public transport still needs numerous human employees in order to provide the best possible experience to the travellers."

          It helps that they probably feel their entire family's honour, for generations to come, depends on their doing a good job. Not quite sure if that applies here.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Drew V.

          A major reason for the vast number of people employed is that it is something of a part planned system and getting rid of people is both hard and a sign of shame, they don't really need a lot of them. Also being a train driver is a enviable position.

          Also the wages, holiday time and, working hours in Japan make the UK look like a holiday nation that gets everything for free.

          But yes a duplication of their system is impossible, and I was only talking about the engineering side.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Possibly ...

      "Though not sure how they'd reduce operating costs if the trains were still staffed" - 2 options spring to mind:

      1: downskill the driver's role to customer service agent with only sufficient training to be able to bring a train safely to a halt in an emergency - don't have to pay them nearly as much (existing staff on protected salary for a while to smooth the transition);

      2: reduce the number of uniformed and plainclothes ticket inspectors as the customer service agent will also be checking tickets.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        FFS, how much skill does it take to press go, stop, and read from the list of excuses when something goes wrong?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Here you go

    3. handle

      It's considered all the time

      Note to author: The Victoria Line has been semi-automatic since it opened in 1968.

      1. Just a geek
        Thumb Down

        The Victoria line and central line both use ATO - Automatic Train operation, essentially driverless trains but I'd still rather have someone up the front that has the ability to turn these things off and deal with the situations the computers can't handle such as powerloss and bombs.

    4. jonathanb Silver badge

      DLR train captains get paid a lot less than the £50k tube drivers get. They can also check tickets and generally keep order on the train. That's where the savings come from.

    5. Jeremy 2

      You've missed something.

      The DLR was designed from the start to be driverless. It's a lot slower than the tube and still requires a staff member on each train to drive manually from time to time. The tube and the SSR were not designed to be driverless and all the infrastructure needed to make it so isn't there and especially in the case of the deep-level lines, can't be easily added without great expense.

      With today's tech, you just can't have driverless trains that run at 50mph in the open (e.g. basically the entire network outside the city centre) with just a fence between the trains and the outside world. For starters, you need a fleshy thing up front who's able to hit the "Oh shit" button when some yobbo puts a (non-conductive) lump of wood or concrete onto the tracks. Do you trust a computer to see stuff like that quickly enough to stop short? You need staff on a train to be able to safely evacuate passengers if needed in tunnels that are only a few inches wider than the train and the only evacuation route is along the train and out the front/back onto potentially live rails. Either that or you need to re-bore every line with an evacuation/service tunnel, ala the Channel Tunnel. I wonder how much that would cost and who would pay for it. Would you like to sit in a tunnel for 45 minutes in August while somebody walks from the nearest station to reset some safety cut-out when a driver on board could do it in 5? The list goes on and on and on.

      The uneducated think 'Oh yeah, driverless trains, that's easy, DLR, right!?'. Well actually, it's not easy. The basic driving and stopping of the train can be handled automatically, yes and has been in use on part of the tube since the '60s. The problem is the edge cases, there are so many and they're so varied that the cheapest and simplest way to deal with them is to pay somebody to sit at the front.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Jeremy 2 - ODFO

        All of your random bleats are assuming there is no staff on the trains whatsoever. Much like the DLR, it's perfectly possible to put someone on the trains, just not actively driving them, so quite why you think you'd need to wait 45 minutes for someone to walk from the nearest station is beyond me. Nobody is saying it's easy, but certainly it's feasible.

        Bizarrely you think there needs to be an "oh-shit" button, as if a human in the dark is able to see obstructions any better than a (say) radar system.

        Ironically you seem to have missed that the DLR travels faster than some lines (the Northern as an example), and has to run slowly when under manual control. Additionally, the only accidents have ever happened while the system was under manual control.

        1. Jeremy 2

          @AC - ODFO :)

          "Bizarrely you think there needs to be an "oh-shit" button, as if a human in the dark is able to see obstructions any better than a (say) radar system."

          Reduce operational costs by implementing track-scanning radar on every train? Seriously? What planet are you on where that kind of tech would be cheaper?

          Heck it's probably not even possible. There's a thousand bits and pieces that should be down there, how do you pick out the one thing that shouldn't be no margin for error? You can't design something like that to fail-safe without causing mass public inconvenience (stopping every time there's a greater than zero chance that the track is obstructed - you'd never move). That makes it inherently unsuited to the railway.

          Tunnels are a non issue (pretty much), as mentioned previously they're inherently more secure. As is the DLR in it's mostly elevated or underground locations, for that matter. Most of the underground is not actually underground and it's those open sections where shit heads with shopping trolleys and lumps of concrete lurk that are the problem.

          1. Tom 13

            I've never ridden a European train,

            only the crappy slow ones that allegedly function as commuter services on this side of the pond. If you think a fleshy at an "oh shit" button can stop the train before the train hits the shit, I don't even want you WASHING my auto, let alone making claims about knowledge of mass transit.

      2. Chris Collins

        Collision detection

        I think you'll find that your chelsea tractor has a perfectly operational collision detection system embedded in the bumpers. Much more attentive than the text messaging operative. Yes, there's a guy on the DLR. The majority of the time he's not driving it. You're on the wrong site for being a Luddite.

  2. Greg J Preece

    Well, you know, perhaps job losses in the public sector aren't always a bad thing. If new technology heralds a major improvement to a system that makes it better for every one of it's millions of customers (and, I would imagine, substantially cheaper), then the layoffs may simply be necessary. It's not pretty, and re-training or reallocation would always be preferable, but the notion that anything that costs jobs is automatically bad has always puzzled me. Technology's *always* done that. There's a reason we don't have hundreds of men staffing car assembly lines any more.

    Plus, as you said, the tube drivers love striking more than they love Gregg's pasties.

    1. JohnMurray

      Substantially cheaper.

      Yes, that'll happen.

      Substantially more profitable.

      A captive market is the phrase that springs to mind.

  3. Steven Jack

    I don't want people to lose their job, however

    The tube should be run for the benefit of Londoners, not TFL staff. I don't want to see people lose their jobs and the invetable social costs that brings, but what is wrong with running down staff numbers over time? The Tube is expensive, Londoners need better value from TFL in these tough times!

    1. Greg J Preece

      The *tube* is expensive?? Phht, in my experience it's cheaper than elsewhere. Up here in sunny Leeds, we seem to pay more and more every 6 months, and get less. Our promised "new rolling stock" turned out to be 20 year old London hand-me-downs, and yet my regular commuter train has recently started turning up a carriage short, which is great fun.

      No prizes for guessing where all our money's gone to.

      1. gribbler

        yes, the tube is expensive

        I recently moved to Barcelona, and a one month pass for the central zones (metro and bus) now costs me the same amount as 3 days on TFL. The tube in London is one of the most expensive public transport systems in any major European city.

      2. KroSha

        @ Greg

        The Tube is hideously expensive. Compare it to Berlin's U-Bahn, where an All-Zone day ticket costs €6.80 (£6.15), and that lasts until 3am the next day. Even the single tickets are 2 hour passes, so if your journey involves a U, a bus and another bus, you only pay once. Plus the trains run pretty much 24 hours. The last time I went out in Berlin we got home at 3am, and the journey took no longer than getting there.

        TFL is still mired in the 20th century, mainly due to the massive resistance of the Unions to any change whatsoever. They're almost as bad as soddin' politicians! At least MPs don't strike if their pay rise is less than 5% in the middle of a depression.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Nah mate - that's where your money's come from.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Where my money comes from? Really?

          My money comes from the oil industry. It's real money, brought in at least in part from other countries (meaning a real net gain for the UK) for real services (and servicing of real products), from a company whose assets are real and who are net profitable. Should this company become non-net-profitable, the skills of the employees would allow them to secure employment all over the world.

          In the middle of a recession, we got pay-rises. As the less well managed economies in Europe collapse, we're re-investing billions into keeping the UK producing hydrocarbons for the next >30 years.

          (Plus I get to play with big underwater hydraulic robots all day. 8-year-old Anonymous Coward would be proud!)

          London has The City and that's it. A lot of virtual money sloshing about in a computer before being sent off to some other country. A world where buying lots of debt was touted as a fantastic financial system from which there would be no problems, and where nothing is actually built.

          And then it has the cheek to demand (with menaces) a rather sizeable percentage of my salary to help prop up these failed faux-businesses. And then adds on extra tax to my employers (and their employers) when they find more sources of profit, squeezing yet more money out of one of the few massively profitable areas (and direct/indirect providers of jobs across the UK) we've still got in this country.

          So nah, mate- London? That's where my money goes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Yes, I'm sure the oil industry of all things has absolutely no use for the facilities offered by investment banks.

            And fancy paying income tax, whatever next?

    2. Marvin the Martian

      But is it losing *quality* jobs?

      Yes, driving is a skilled job but no, it's not inspiring; it's driving circles under the ground with the occasional banter over the tannoy to relieve boredom. I'm sure the off-duty cameraderie is rewarding, but that can't be the aim of a job. You're mostly looking out for simple binary info (stop/go signals) that a machine can more reliably react to (push 'go'); the "human" task at hand is [1] gauging if too overcrowded, refusing to let on new passengers, and [2] seeing if all doors are clear, to drive off (or stop if the passengers suddenly shout), so within reach of computers by now, with a verify from central control if necessary.

      That, and the unsociable hours --- with automatic trains there's essentially no reason not to run 24/7 if profitable, possibly over a reduced net like night buses. Yes, carrying out work on the track I suppose.

      I'm guessing risk of strikes goes up: instead of balloting 1500 drivers, you have to just organise the 20 or so PFYs in the control room.

      1. L.B.

        Under no circumstances can a tube driver be called a skilled worker.

        It may require some knowledge that you or I don't have, but that is true of almost every occupation be it a street cleaner or security guard all the way up to lawyers, accountants and surgeons.

        It takes a course of just few weeks to take a pleb off the street and fully train them as a tube driver. For people with a little intelligence that course could probably be done in as many days.

        Skilled work takes many weeks to get just the basics, and months and more often years to master. In some jobs you never stop learning.

  4. nichobe


    What is so bad about improving a system or process and letting natural job shed reduce staffing levels.

    p.s The only thing worse than unions is the patent war.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frankly, the sooner they implement this the better.

    And that from a life-long Labour voter.

    1. Thomas 4

      Any chance we could replace Bob Crow...

      ....with someone that isn't psychotically insane and willing to, oooh, I dunno, *NEGOTIATE* instead of getting on his mountain-high horse every time someone says something bad about the Tube?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    about f---ing time.

  7. Ian Yates

    Shock: World moves on, some jobs redundant

    I've personally wondered at why this has taken so long and have always assumed it was a Union thing.

    While I have sympathy for anyone who loses their job, especially when the job has effectively become unnecessary, it seems worse to me to follow a "job creation" agenda of purposefully not implementing changes in order to preserve otherwise pointless jobs...

    That aside, the idea of most stations being completely unmanned might be taking it too far if it means that emergency response is impacted.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't they just bolt on one of the avoidance systems from a volvo that'll stop the train if it spots something ahead? (which can see further than a driver's eyes!)

    Can turn all "drivers" into PSA to acutally help people then rather than being an army of crow's evil automatrons stuck in the box at the front voyeuristically watching the cctv

    1. Silverburn

      Volvo avoidance systems

      ...are fatally flawed.

      Fatal for the bikers and cyclists they usually fail at avoiding, at least.

      When I rule the world by dictatorship, all volvo's will come equipped with a loudspeaker and will play the jaws theme tune on a loop; and the music's tempo matched to the vehicle speed.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a religious issue?

    Unionists conveys - to me at least - an image of bowler-hatted man marching through Catholic areas in an invented 'tradition'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      *All* traditions were invented, at some time.

      1. Marvin the Martian

        Anything done on three consecutive years is a tradition from then onwards.

    2. AdamWill

      Me too

      Yeah, the first line had me scratching my head and wondering if they'd awarded the rolling stock contract to the IRA or something.

  10. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Ah Yes, Bob Crow.

    One of the old-school Trotskyites. A friend of mine who works for a large bus company has a few choice words to say about him.

    If union members make such great demands of a business that the business becomes uncompetitive as a result, such as preventing the business from adopting new technologies that increase efficiencies, it is ultimately the union members themselves who suffer, when they get laid off when the company folds. The only winners here are the union leaders, in ther comfortable well-paid jobs.

    Don't get me wrong, unions have achieved many good things in the past, but we now have plenty of legislation (as a result) to ensure that workers are treated and paid fairly. The concept of a union is becoming more and more outdated.

    1. Chris Miller


      That'll be the kind of Trot that takes a £250k annual package, but still has a (heavily subsidised) council flat. Clearly learnt a lot from his mate Arthur Scargill, and will no doubt have the same effect on his members.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I understand that it's actually about £150k - but the point still holds.

        All men are equal, but some are more equal than others.

    2. TheOtherHobbbes

      Uh huh?

      And where were you during the TfL PPP maintenance fiascos of the last few years, when the brave innovative spirit of private enterprise marched in to put TfL's antiquated union-led practices to rights - and promptly fell over, requiring massive cash handouts?

      See e.g.

      This idea that only the public sector can be inefficient and/or moronic needs to be taken out back and shot. Anyone who has experience of private sector management can give you countless examples otherwise.

      Also, in case you haven't noticed, TfL is a public monopoly. It's not 'competitive' with anyone.

      Nor should it be, if the UK's mainlines are anything to go by. The result of privatisation has been massive fare increases, massive public subsidy increases, and - until Hatfield - massive safety and performance decreases.

      Readers should check the numbers for themselves. They really are quite shocking.

      Of course if by 'competitive' you mean 'making shitloads of cash for banks and corporate investors' then you're entirely correct. Because that's been the only positive outcome of the UK's rail privatisation policy.

      And as for the RMT - firing 1500 workers will barely add up to a rounding error in TfLs £9bn annual budget.

      Anyone who really believes this scheme is going to do anything to keep fares down needs a sharp dose of reality.

      1. JohnMurray

        Well.....I wasn't going to post this...but

    3. JohnMurray


      Most employers either do not know about the legislation, or pretend they do not.

      I suppose mentioning the recent illegal database case, where employers paid for information from an illegally-operated database, knowingly, is a no ?

      And that was the construction industry....nothing about the engineering industry yet...

      Health and safety legislation, existing since 1974, is routinely ignored in practically all works premises...

      Work at height regulations (most serious injuries on sites are from falls) are also routinely ignored (i watched a guy standing on a waste bucket on the end of a telehandlers forks, manhandling a steel lintel at about 15 metres fall restraint)

      Employers moan about "red tape", but pay no attention to it anyway !

    4. Colin Millar
      Thumb Down

      Nothing like an easy target

      Those unions eh - whats the latest list?

      Coal mining industry

      Steel industry

      Railway industry

      And lets not forget the "spanish practices" which destroyed our traditional newspaper industry.

      All destroyed by a bunch of working class lads. You would have thought the revolution would have come by now with such an ability concentrated in the hands of a few thousand people.

      Try reading beyond the Daily Mail headlines. Piss-poor political management, a lack of long term strategic thinking and operational practices determined by accountants - that's the enemy.

      But you just keep on taking the easy shots and sleep soundly knowing that you have an enemy that you can put a face on.

      Me - I'd put my trust in pure luck before I'd trust a purely programmatic approach to complex, dangerous operations.

    5. AdamWill


      "Don't get me wrong, unions have achieved many good things in the past, but we now have plenty of legislation (as a result) to ensure that workers are treated and paid fairly. The concept of a union is becoming more and more outdated."

      Indeed - after all, the upper classes now run the world conscientiously in a manner that benefits everyone, poverty in developed countries has been eradicated, and the income gap has been declining for years.

      Wait a god damned second...

      Are there instances when unions do silly things? Sure there are. Do I get pissed off when people extend this to the absurd notion that unions are now utterly obsolete and we can all trust our bosses to treat us fairly out of the kindness of our hearts? Hells, yes.

  11. Confused Vorlon

    Jubilee only needs a driver because of the union

    It's the exact same system that is used in driverless trains in France.

    In the UK, the unions insisted that was dangerous (and presumably threatened to shut down the whole network), so the drivers sit in the front and control the door opening/closing.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Surely this is only on the Jubilee Line extension? Or have they installed doors on the platform on the whole line now?

      My understanding was that you can only go driverless when they have doors on the platform to match up with the doors on the trains (a bit like driverless lifts that everyone seems to think have been ok for ages!)

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        The DLR doesn't have doors on the platform, and is driverless. The train captain does close the doors and press the button to send the train on its way to the next station.

        1. FIA Silver badge

          The real issue...

 I can read this entire article, and get halfway down the comment thread before discovering there's such a job as "train captain"?

          Where do I apply???!?

    2. Langstroth

      Driver sits in the front and

      reads his paper.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call me cynical, but.....

    Nice leak. And when the real plan is revealed everyone will heave a sigh of relief when it is shown to be not quite as "bad" as this one.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems Bob Crow has his own 'reality distortion field'. How reducing operational costs by 20% would mean a massive fare hike is beyond me. Holding the country to ransom every time he wants a new conservatory by striking for more money "for the drivers", however, definitely DOES lead to increased fares. I despise this snivelling little man, and all he stands for. I wish I got paid as much for my technically demanding job as the pastie-munching tube drivers did for sitting on their rears pushing the same button all day long. the sooner we bring in automated services, the better.

    1. Hilibnist
      Thumb Up

      How much could they save?

      Well said. 1,500 drivers with an average salary of £46,000 (say the BBC)... that'd be £69 million per year that TfL could redistribute. Fair enough, some of it could be usefully spent on more visible and helpful staff, but the rest would make a good contribution towards paying for full automation on the lines which already support it. The numbers look very inviting when you imagine the savings over 10 years or more.

      Of course, it's a long shopping list of things to improve: aircon, more trains (or just more trains per hour), Oyster cards that don't spontaneously lose their data...

      1. Blackbird74

        plus guaranteed pay rise until 2015 (at least)

        And don't forget the 5%+ pay rise they are guaranteed each year until 2015:

        Protecting the jobs and pay for the workers is the primary concern for any union, but milk it too much (especially from public funds) and they'll go they same route as the dockers and miners.

  14. HP Cynic

    It works in France and I'd be more inclined to say the Union has brought this on themselves with their absolutely ridiculous driver-wage demands.

  15. Northern Fop

    The day Bob Crow's union ceases to exist

    I will dance a jig, open a bottle of champagne, and throw a party.

    If you take the 'union' out of the title, I think I'd reach a state of zen-like happiness and contentment so *perfect* that everyone within a mile radius would experience a sense of well-being and love towards their fellow man (or woman). Then I'd get utterly trollied. I'm generally pretty mild-mannered, but that man is a anachronistic f*ckwit.

    1. KroSha


      That you?

      1. Northern Fop

        Oh, bugger


        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          I believe the word you're looking for is:

          Crikey! Or possibly Yikes!

          When Mayor Boris got off his bike to chase off some muggers a couple of years ago, his reported words were. "Clear off you Oiks!"

          That man is down with da kidz and well street innit...

  16. pig

    About time.

    Bob Crow is funamentaly unable to understand reality and has probably sped up the move to this technology.

    Trains will still be staffed, its just they will have a steward rather then a driver. And the Steward wont be on £50k+ (which is an amazing salary for 4 days a week in an unskilled job) and wont be able blackmail the people they are meant to serve.

    The union seem to think any job loss is unacceptable, but doesn't count new jobs in their analysis.

    Take the ticket offices for example. They rage at "job losses" but are they counting all the people who work for Oyster, from techies to call centres operatives, as new jobs? I think not.

    It is natural progression. In the 60's you had ticket officers at each station and drivers. In this century we have / will have / should have train stewards and electronic ticketing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At a rough guess, these people in new positions are not its members. And in the case of contracted out call centres, possibly not in a union at all.

      You can absolutely bet the techies and management aren't.

  17. Metz

    Few correction to this 'report'...

    1. Bob Crow is a moron. Though I'd say that first despite it being obvious.

    2. Mike Brown isn't so clever, either. What he failed to point out is that this isn't even a 'real' document. The title page, and the document codes, make that perfectly clear. It is a document used to train managers (pardon the pun). It's is used to stimutlate thinking in one of the management training courses run at the training center.

    3. Bob Crow is a moron. I hate to labour a point, but its important so I though I'd say it twice.

  18. RIch 24

    As if...

    Some tube driver is going to put down his jaz mag and spring to my defense if someone has a go at me on the viccy line!

    The only people mugging us on the tube ARE the RMT.

  19. James 100

    I'd say the mere fact "Crowbar" opposes it is endorsement enough to want it implemented ASAP - needless to say, the reason he's afraid of it is the same reason the rest of us should be delighted: it disarms him at last, no more holding us all to ransom with threats to disable our transport infrastructure every time he throws a tantrum or wants an even bigger raise.

    Quite how the overpaid buffoon things the financial savings from eliminating his army of overpaid button-pushers would INCREASE fares ... well, nobody ever claimed button-pushing required any skills, which is why it's absurd for them to be paid so much more than the minimum wage their unskilled non-essential job is worth.

    1. Tim #3

      He's not just overpaid, but subsidised publically too...

      BTW , how many days paid annual leave do tube drivers get now, has it reached 50 yet?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bob Crow says

    "This document tells us everything we need to know about the operational strategy of London Underground - massive increase in fares alongside an unprecedented attack on jobs and safety"

    Perhaps massive increases wouldn't have been necessary if the unioners didn't get plush raises when the rest of us are lucky if we get 2% pa?

    RMT - you've made your unsustainable bed.

    1. AdamWill

      so your complaint is...

      ...that people who have the gumption to organize a union get treated better by their employer than people who don't, viz, you?

      this is true. the bit that gobsmacks me is that the neoliberals have succeeded to such an extent in convincing people that the natural extension of this argument isn't 'well, maybe we should form a union too' but 'boo! unions suck! let's drag the bastards down to our minimum wage level!'

      to put it another way, lots of people seem to be more willing to be jealous of those who earn three times as much as they do for a vaguely honest day's work, than they are to be jealous of those who earn 1,000 times as much for showing up for two hours and firing a hundred people between rounds of golf.

      I mean, it's an amazing intellectual achievement, if you look at it dispassionately. if only we could harbour this amazing ability to get people to look past their own self-interest to some kind of better end...

  22. Gerrit Hoekstra
    Thumb Up

    Next Step: Automate the work of the redundant Signallers

    The all-powerful signallers have keps their tube signalling dumbed down at 1960's continuous-band punch-card & clockwork technology to keep themselves in a cushy job where they spend all day doing... uhm.. watching these clever little machines.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is not the signallers' doing, but rather a reflection of the underinvestment in the network over the years.

      However, change is coming with a move to ATO (automatic train operation) in sight: Jubilee line already done, Northern in progress and contracts let for all of the sub-surface lines (District, Circle & Hammersmith and Metropolitan). In its wake will certainly be job losses amongst signallers and maintenance staff as there we a great deal less of either to do.

      However, 1960's electromechanical technology on London Ungerground pails into insignificance against the 1000 or more manual signal boxes remaining on Network Rail. They have a rolling plan of abolishing almost all of them in the next decade or so with resignalling schemes. As part of this plan lots of medium sized signalling centres will go as well, leaving 13 regional signalling centres in total. Lots and Lots of jobs will be eliminated there.

      1. paulf

        That should be interesting and costly

        Its no surprise that there are 1000 manual signal boxes on the NR network.

        In Cornwall alone I can count at least five mechanical signal boxes (Liskeard, Lostwithiel, Par, Truro, St Erth) still in existence and controlling mainline and branch movements. They're almost every other station. Some movements governed by Train crew operated ground frames and tokens (I'm thinking Looe branch line for one).

        These all have ground frames (the big mechanical levers we associate with manual signal boxes) and have usually been upgraded to run the Colour Light Signalling on the line that the box controlls but is too far from the box to be run with mechanical wires and pullys. These distant signals are usually as a result of an smaller intermediate signal box being closed and its responsibilities moved to the remaining larger box along the line.

        Travelling West (down) the last full power signal box is Plymouth North Road AFAIK.

        I only hope that they don't use this as an excuse to close lines because they're not economic to upgrade from ground frame to power signal box. It'll also be sad to see the semaphore signals disappear from Cornwall - they give the railway a kinda quaint feel :)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    at last!

    a sign they're moving towards what we've been mentioning at home for the last few years. What - people made unemployed? No, tube trains running, independent of a tiny group of (...) who hold a good few million people to ransom. All that talk about "endangering passangers' lives" from the union is bullshit I hear every time there is a threat to their cushioned stools.. And the drivers in particular are paid a ridiculous amount of money for what is essentially a pretty simple job (never seen any one of them try to demonstrate in the media they're worth this money). So every so often they decide they are not paid enough already, or that some of their abusive and drinking work mates have been wronged by being kicked out of their cushy jobs - and they walk out and the whole f... city grinds to a halt. And every time they do that, they get a pat on their head, the pay rise, the mates reinstated. I will gladly quote to them: "Cemetaries are full of indispensable people". Your time is up, and it's mainly your own doing.

    To counterbalance, in case they do manage to kick them out and run automated trains (and there will be a lot of fighting before they manage to do that), - I don't expect any lower ticket prices, nosir. This never happens, they will "invest the resources into the network". Yeah, right. But at least the trains will be running. Until their system gets hacked and all of them head south, to Costa Riviera, or something.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Turn all staff into customer service reps?

    That would make a nice change from the usual rude and unhelpful attitude that the TfL grunts show.

  25. tmTM

    Boo hoo

    Overpaid, under-worked drivers finally replaced my machines.

    About time.

  26. Steve the Cynic
    Thumb Up

    Re: all those mentioning France...

    Yes, indeed. Here in Lille (well, just outside Lille, butnevermindthat), we have a driver-less rubber-tyre metro (actually the first of its type in the world). The trains run once a minute during rush hour, less often at weekends and evenings. The cost? Any single journey costs 1.40€, or 0.70€-ish for up to three stops. Little bundles of ten tickets are less than ten times that price, and season tickets are available for 48€ a month, 46€ a month if you get them on direct debit (where they arrive in the post on or just after the 25th of the month). And the season tickets also give unlimited use of the buses and trams.

    And we have no Bob Crow either.

    And don't forget that removing the RMT from the cabs of Tube trains won't end your travel woes, as the maintenance crews over most of the Tube are also RMT staff...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DTG-R is already driverless

    Pressing a button to change modes to automatic does not count as driving.

    Computers drive better than humans when programmed properly. The technical challenge to get more trains within the headway requirements can only be met by a computer with an absolute focus on driving hard all the time. This might make the passenger humans sick however, so the driver tends to be MUCH more gentle with throttle and brake, especially on the run into a station, which is where the most headway gains are to be had. Computers dont care.

    Trained monkey up front, to press big red stop in failure conditions that cant be anticipated by the computer systems. Trained monkey does not need to be trained driver.

    Ergo, Trained Drivers and their large wage packets are a dying breed.

    Sorry Bob, but change happens.

    AC, because obviously I know something about this stuff and it's a small industry

  28. The elephant in the room

    Seems like a reasonable excuse to big up The Amature Transplants classic:

  29. GhilleDhu

    B Crow..

    Oi Crow, just F*** OFF, seriously you're an idiot.

    Best thing I've heard in a long time.

  30. Richard Wharram

    Getting rid of jobs that form part of an inefficient process and replacing some or all of them with jobs that form part of a more efficient process is called economic growth.

    On the whole it's a pretty good thing.

    Oh, and yes, I have been 'downsized' myself. Redundancy payments are quite nice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Its only economic growth if the savings are spent on buying new services, such as air con etc not on bonuses to management for cutting costs.

      And if the redundant staff struggle to find work it will be the dear old tax payer who'll be paying their job seeker allowance, housing benefit and, eventually, pension credits.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We used to have drivers on elevators as well. Progress happens. Deal with it.

  32. trafalgar

    Tube and TFL staff are over paid. Fare prices need to come down. Cheapest single fair is around 20p in Hong King, price of a Hong Kong can of Cola!

    Driverless trains yes as well as centralising upper management. In addition to residential and commercial development and use rental income to reduce fares. Not sure if TFL is the landlord of the Westfield Stratford shopping centre. If not, it's a missed opportunity!

    More advertising income, why not have "TFL Radio" on buses/carriages? More LCD screens running adverts etc.?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on

    Bob Crow is the elected leader of the RMT. The members of which have joined voluntarily (closed shops have long been abolished) and pay their sub's to remain members. Plus, if those members are unhappy with the RMT they can vote with their feet and leave, or join ASLEF instead.

    Bob Crowe was voted in to protect and improve his members conditions of employment, something which he has exceled at and explains why he has been re-elected.

    So with that in mind, how do you expect him to re-act to any suggestion that his members lose their jobs?

  34. nsld

    Title should be Luddite moans about progress

    A move to automation and an increase in platform and customer service staff would be very welcome on the underground, especially in the later evenings when the inebriated are in full effect.

    Bob Crow knows if he loses the drivers he loses almost all his power as without the meatsacks at the wheel he cant shut the service down as easily.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If it pisses-off Bob Crow it's good for me.

    Perhaps the Moorgate crash would not have happened with a driverless system to make, erm, human error?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      While I agree with your initial sentiment, the crash at Moorgate is only presumed to have been caused by the driver and it was about thirty years ago.

  36. Andy 97
    Thumb Up

    Boo hoo...

    So the days of getting £57k for pushing a lever and being surly to passengers is coming to an end is it?

    Who'd have thought it?

    Nice work Bob, still I'm sure your mates have a nice job lined-up for you.

    Retire now you dinosaur and do the working people of the capital an early xmas present.

  37. Alex King

    Transport museum

    I have a vivid memory from the age of about eight of visiting the London transport museum, where they had a simulation of driving a tube train, using real controls hooked up to an Amiga A3000. I had a couple of goes but it wasn't really enough to hold my attention for more than three minutes (accelerate and brake were a little less interaction than I was used to).

    I'm sure £46k would have helped maintain this concentration a while longer, but I think it might have been a better idea to get the A3000 to drive the train instead. Or maybe employ a four year old who was more easily amused.

    Get it done and axe the lot of them - then if they go on strike why do we care? It'll just make sacking them easier. The RMT has caused more disruption to London and the rest of the UK than any terror organisation ever has.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bring it on

    Serve them right for striking all the time. It no wonder their drivers are on £40k. Being able to cripple London until the management gives in to their demands.

    1. cloudgazer

      Agreed - they're one of the most loathsome special interest groups in london. They strike for money, they strike for benefits, they strike when the weather turns nice and they fancy a few days off, they strike because one of the mice running round the stations looked at them funny.

  39. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Remotely piloted?

    If the US military can fly a drone remotely and drop bombs on some hostile country then why can't London tube trains be piloted remotely?

    Drivers could then live in some cheaper region of the country where they don't need to be earning mega-bucks to afford to live in the capital.

  40. Le Dao

    Train Operators

    There haven't been drivers for a long time on London Underground they have been called train Operators for a long time. The Jubilee line signalling systems as also planned for Northern and Piccadilly in the future are based on the same signalling system as the DLR, so they are designed to be operator free today. Another post noted the automated status of the Vic line although this may well be further away today than it was in 1967.

    I do wonder why the jubilee line is now so jerky, since the upgrade. The trains never settle at a steady sped but speed up and down as if someone is trying to match a target speed which is always changing as the movement of trains infront effects the energy and safety distance calculations. So I can't work out if we would be better off with signals or no operators.

  41. CheesyTheClown

    Union is pissed that they lose leverage?

    Let's be frank here.... you have a bunch of losers who are pissed that they are so incredibly useless that they are being replaced by computers? A single operator in a central location with emergency override controls can replace and entire operating fleet of tube train drivers.

    Should the union be pissed? Well of course... it means a lot less union dues. It means that the entire tube system can likely be operated without union labor at all. It means that a huge number of useless people will be out of work with no qualifications beyond those similar to Homer Simpson that have been overpaid for years no will need to find jobs that will support their standard of living... which is sit on their ass all day, then sit on their ass all night.

    London has LOTS of public restrooms and floors that need to be cleaned. Last time I tried using a "self cleaning toilet" on high street, it was disgustingly dirty. There are certainly more useful places to employee these people within the city.

  42. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    £50k PA for a tube drivers job?

    How many of you are above that?

    Did you ever consider perhaps you were in the wrong job (at least temporarily)?

  43. daniel 40

    F**k Bob Crow.

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Coofer Cat

    Overpaid, underskilled

    Tube drivers aren't all that well skilled, yet get paid disproportionately well. Take for example the Waterloo and City line - surely the simplest there can be. Trains leave waterloo, the driver has a crazed look in his eye as he 'floors' it to try and get the wheels to bounce off the track. Because he's gone too fast, he then has to stop just outside the station to wait for the platform to become available.

    Surely, if these drivers were so oh-my-god-they're-great-we-can't-live-without-them, they'd be able to figure out that going 5mph *slower* would actually get them there faster?

    As for Bob Crow, 145K/year is all you need to know.

  46. AJames

    Driverless trains can work

    The trains in Vancouver (Canada) are all driverless, and they have a good safety record. The trains, tracks, and stations are monitored by CCTV from a central control room, and they have automated safety systems that monitor the tracks and stop the trains in the event of a problem. Plenty of uniformed staff and transit police circulate throughout the system, and there's a good chance of seeing them on any given train or at any given platform.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The SkyTrain system in Vancouver has never had drivers and is currently celebrating it's 25th anniversary, untested cutting edge technology indeed!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Me too

      Yeah, I was going to mention the Skytrain.

      Take it to work every morning.

      One good thing about it is that when the train is ready to leave, it doesn't hang about waiting for every bugger to squeeze on. It just shuts the doors and you're off! There're plenty of trains so at peak time, you only have to wait for a couple of mins. That way it generally runs on time.

      They do get occasional faults but I find it pretty good. You don't get the problem of having to cancel trains because drivers are sick either.

      As others have said though, it does need to be designed in. At stations, there are laser activated alarms to detect track intrusions. There are also usually plenty of staff and transit police around the place that ride on the trains and hang around the stations. There doesn't have to be mass redundancies but the main benefits are more efficient and regular running.

  47. Richard Porter


    "TfL is already running some semi-automatic trains on the Jubilee line, although these trains also still have a driver. "

    The Victoria Line has had Automatic Train Operation since it opened in 1968. No doubt with the new signalling the 09 stock could run fully automatically, but you'd still need someone on the train and/or on the platform at each station to dispatch the train. Remote control with CCTV isn't much good when something goes wrong. You can't do CPR over long line PA!

    Incidentally, Bob Crow may be a throwback to the past (he reminds me of Ray Buckton at ASLEF) but he's not a moron. He is a good negotiator and debater, and he can rin rings around most of our politicians as the recent Question Time debacle proved. We needed someone like him in 1964 - who did we get? - Sydney Green.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: debater

      Obvious mass-debater gag deleted.

      Was this the one where he said (to a roar of approval from the crowd) "I wish everyone in the country earned a hundred grand [or whatever] like me?"

      Popularist, but stupid. If we made the minimum wage £100k, can you imagine the price of bread, eggs, tube fares, mars bars... either we'd offshore everything, so no employment, or devalue the currency so £100k was worth whatever minimum wage is now.

      I suggest he take a day reduction in salary every time one of his crowd has a day strike. it's nice to call it when you are not affected, is it not?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I would agree that Bob is an effective negotiator, although his negotiation style is very much along the lines of "If you don't do what we want, we'll bring everyone out". However, I've seen him on Question Time and heard him on Any Questions enough times to know that he is not a good debater. He is certainly an em-passioned speaker but he rarely integrates into a debate and certainly won't ever allow himself to have his mind changed in any way during a debate. He holds opinions so strongly without any examination of pertinent facts that I actually heard him saying that the Tories want to sell off the NHS while Labour would never do that and that the NHS has been and would continue to be safe in Labour's hands - totally blinded to the fact that it was Labour who started the privatisation of the NHS in the first place.

  48. mmm mmm

    It's about time

    It went automatic; When the trains and stations go automatic, Bob Crow and his cronies will have nothing to hold us to ransom with, which if I didn't know different, is the real reason they're going uproar again.

  49. Locky

    Any story involving tube drivers

    reminds me of this -

    Yes, you've seen it a hundred times, but it doesn't stop it from being funny

  50. Blubster

    Bob Crow and the RMT?

    Fuck 'em

  51. Eduard Coli

    Unionize the robots

    Rather than cut service when inevitably the things break after cost overruns buy the lowest bidder with some nice kickbacks to pertinent offices in thanks for their help. Real efficiencies could be realized by automating politicians. A TI 94A could probably cover several MPs and would not need so many breaks or get up to so much trouble.

  52. Deano2099

    just a thought...

    But with the money saved from having driver-less trains, we could put a police officer that would other be getting 'cut' on every train.

  53. This post has been deleted by its author

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