Talks to continue to avert planned Tube strikes

Transport for London (TfL) has publicly backed proposals to close all ticket offices by 2015 as it continues to hold talks with trade unions in an attempt to prevent planned strike action.

TfL is meeting again today (April 23) with representatives from RMT hoping to convince the union to cancel five days of planned industrial action between April 28-30 and May 5-8.

In an open letter to London Underground passengers published on April 22, managing director Mike Brown outlined the benefits of the changes.

By moving staff out of ticket offices to gate lines and platforms, TfL believes it can offer a better level of customer service for passengers.

TfL estimates that fewer than 3 per cent of all passenger journeys involve a visit to ticket offices and that by closing them, it could save around £50 million each year – money that could be reinvested into new trains and improving the current service.

However, RMT believes the move will see staff moved to lower pay grades and moved across the network.

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “Staff are furious that while senior management pay and staffing levels are being allowed to roar ahead the jobs and pay of the core, station based staff who are the interface with the travelling public are being torn to ribbons.

“The assurances that were given at the time RMT suspended the original action for a proper evaluation of the cuts plans have been ripped up and thrown back in our faces.

“RMT has had no option but to put on further strike action in the expectation that the management will now halt these dangerous cuts plans and engage in meaningful and serious talks on the future of a tube network running at full tilt, with further demands in the pipeline, which needs more staff and not less to operate safely.”

Around 950 positions are to go under the proposals. Of these, 650 have already opted for voluntary redundancy.

Mike Brown said: “Our proposals mean radically improved customer service while allowing us to bear down on the cost of transport fares.

“Ticket offices do not control the safety and security of stations. Station supervisors and dedicated controls rooms do that, and this will continue. Every station will remain staffed and controlled at all times, and new ticket machines, contactless payment and a 24-hour service at weekends will further improve life for our customers.

“We cannot stand by and force customers to pay for ticket offices through their fares when a far better service can be provided more efficiently.

“The Mayor was able to keep fare increases this year down to the rate of inflation as a result of our being able to modernise and improve London’s transport while reducing our overall costs.

“We want to continue doing so, helping us to further bear down on fares.”

Brown added: “We recognise that the strikes the RMT propose from next week will be hugely disruptive. I hope that they can be averted – but that is up to the RMT. The sensible thing to do is keep talking.

“If the strikes go ahead, we will work hard to provide the best service we possibly can. Many of our staff will come in to work and we will also have our Travel Ambassadors out in force to offer help and advice.”