The Action for Rail campaign joins forces today (23 October) with transport, disabled and older people’s campaign groups to condemn plans by London Mayor Boris Johnson to shed hundreds of staff across London’s transport.
There will be a day of protests across the capital with activity at a number of London Underground stations.
Campaigners are protesting as they believe passengers could be faced with significantly fewer staff to assist them as a result of a cocktail of cuts being proposed across London transport services.
They include plans to close ticket offices at stations across London Underground, cut other tube staff, and remove guards from trains on London Overground.
Campaigners also fear the cuts could have an impact on staff employed in maintenance work across the network.
London Underground is due to release further details of the proposed cuts next month. In his Spending Review earlier this year, the Chancellor announced a 12.5 per cent cut to the Transport for London (TfL) budget, to take effect from June 2015. Action for Rail fears that this cut could result in further job losses.
Polling recently commissioned by the RMT showed that more than two-thirds (71 per cent) of passengers oppose ticket office closures in London. A survey of passengers jointly commissioned by Action for Rail, Transport for All, Disabled Passengers Against Cuts (DPAC) and the National Pensioners Convention shows that four in five (81 per cent) of respondents said the loss of staff at stations would make travel difficult.
In addition, more than two-thirds (71 per cent) said they require assistance from staff at stations and on trains. More than half (54 per cent) said they needed help buying tickets. Nearly half (45 per cent) needed help with accessing ticket gates and platforms; and more than a third (34 per cent) said it would deter them making some journeys or make train travel difficult.
Campaigners are also highlighting that under the Mayoralty of Boris Johnson, fares have risen three times faster than average earnings, contributing to the living standards crisis in the capital.
Action for Rail spokesperson and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Mayor’s plans to cut staff on the tubes and trains and at stations across London will come as a shock to passengers who are worried about escalating fares in the capital. This might help implement the Chancellor’s cuts in London, but our research shows that train passengers are rightly appalled at this prospect.
“Commuters and passengers – especially the elderly, disabled, and those travelling with young children – desperately want the support, reassurance and safety that rail staff provide.”
Director of disabled and older people’s passenger group Transport for All Faryal Velmi said: “Underground staff play a key role in assisting disabled and older people to use the London Underground including accessing the platform and the train, particularly at stations with complicated access routes, or manual boarding ramps.
“We are very concerned that if these staff cuts go ahead then access to the entire London Underground network will be restricted for disabled and older passengers".
President of the National Pensioners Convention Ron Douglas said: “Older passengers already face difficulties accessing the tubes and trains in London. The last thing any pensioners in the capital want is to lose the staff that provide us with essential support.
“We’re calling on the Mayor to prioritise the needs of London’s older people and make a stand against the Chancellor’s swingeing cuts to London’s public transport.”
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “A year after the London Olympics – when transport workers in London moved millions of tourists quickly and safely through the capital – it’s ridiculous that the legacy – the legacy for Londoners and those who travel in the capital is a Conservative Mayor determined to shed hundreds of jobs on tubes, trains and stations across London. Londoners deserve the same standards this year – and every year – that we offered those who visited these shores in 2012.”
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “Londoners need to be clear what is at stake. Boris Johnson and his officials are cooking up a secret plan behind closed doors that will threaten 6,000 jobs, close hundreds of ticket offices and leave maintenance schedules in tatters and stations unstaffed. This is the biggest single threat to the entire tube network since Hitler’s bombers were pounding London in the Blitz.
“The Mayor’s secret plans – which would deny thousands access to the tube network and leave it lethally understaffed for the rest – are expected to be dropped in the run up to Christmas with the intention of bulldozing them through (with just 90 days notice) in March. RMT will work with transport users and our unions to mount an all-out industrial and political fight to halt the attack on tube jobs and services.”
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Boris, even by his own record of stretching the truth to breaking point, has surpassed himself. In 2008, he promised to keep open every tube ticket office. Now he is planning to close every single one with the loss of 2,000 jobs. He is walking to Downing Street over a street of broken promises.”