May could be the earliest we see a Night Tube running in London, as unions have warned the 24-hour service could be delayed until after the mayoral election.
Hotly anticipated by Londoners and debated by Transport for London (TfL) and unions, the weekend night services were announced 18 months ago, but their launch has been delayed repeatedly by union strikes and disputes over pay and working conditions.
Now Finn Brennan, negotiator for train driver union Aslef, warns it may “be months away”, confirming what union sources told City A.M. in early January, depriving Mayor Boris Johnson of the important announcement before leaving the office:
We hope the progress that's been made means that London will finally get a Night Tube service this year.
Anonymous sources have previously told City A.M. that the project may never get off the ground union source told City A.M. in early January that the Night Tube project may “never get off the ground”:
It's the belief in many quarters that [the Night Tube] will all be dropped in May when Boris [Johnson] leaves City Hall.
Blaming London Underground for the delay, Brennan added, “If London Underground had been ready to negotiate a fair agreement from the start, then the delay and two days of strike action (last year) could have been avoided. Let's hope they learn the lesson for the future.”
A Tube strike planned for February was called off at the last minute, sparing commuters a 24-hour standstill like the ones in July and August last year.
Despite the disputes, TfL insists it is still fully committed to the Night Tube, as a spokesperson told City A.M.:
"We continue to progress plans for the implementation of the Night Tube, including the recruitment of 700 new staff to operate this exciting new service as quickly as possible."
But training the new staff, TfL acknowledged, will take 12-16 weeks, meaning the Night Tube is still at least three months away.