Down the tube?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

So it turns out that we Londoners won’t be able to go big and go home on the tube, anytime soon after all… The long awaited Night Tube was due to begin last month but was delayed over a dispute about staff pay and conditions.

An autumn launch date was then ear marked, but torturous talks between TFL and transport unions mean that long suffering Londoners might now have to wait until March 2016 before they can catch the tube home after a night out in town. Make no mistake: the night tube dream has morphed into a never-ending nightmare.

Tube workers and their supporters say that they are worried about a work life balance. However with TFL insisting that their pay offer is “fair and sustainable” with “cast-iron” guarantees for limiting employees’ night shifts and soldiers, police officers, nurses, teachers, junior doctors – and yes journalists – working more unsociable hours for a lot less than a tube driver is paid to drive a train, sympathy for the drivers is in short supply here at JAT towers….

Needless to say the ongoing night tube dispute is having a negative effect on ordinary Londoners looking to avoid a mad dash across town for the last tube, a long journey on a battered, beer soaked night bus or an expensive cab ride home.

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The all-night tube will not benefit north-west Londoners

However not only is the night tube  delay damaging our fun (as well as making life difficult for weekend shift workers), it’s having a negative effect on the economy. Experts estimate that the delay will cost London’s businesses, restaurants and theatres “tens of millions of pounds” as  locals and tourists alike continue to curtail their evenings out because the only safe and reliable way they can get home after midnight is via an expensive taxi.

Plans for the night tube are far from perfect – it will only run on Friday and Saturday nights, while some lines (here’s looking at the much maligned Metropolitan line) are being overlooked entirely. Others won’t run on the whole of their lines (the Piccadilly line, for example, will run between Cockfosters and Heathrow terminal Five but not out to Uxbridge).

Still while I’d like to see night services extended to all lines on a Friday and Saturday and for the Piccadilly line to run to Heathrow airport every single day of the week so that we can all travel to and from early and late flights with ease, it would nonetheless be a start.

If the unions remain reluctant for London to join New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, Berlin, Stockholm and Sydney in offering a night time metro service, then perhaps it’s time to seriously think about long an hard about introducing driverless trains?

For the fact of the matter is this: the colourful, cosmopolitan capital is no Cinderella. London doesn’t shut down, when the clock strikes midnight. Neither should the tube.

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