Transport for London (TfL) and Arriva Rail London (ARL) said today that "there will not be a need for compulsory redundancies" in plans to overhaul the London Overground, as unions warned ticket office closures could lead to industrial action.
ARL will begin meeting with staff and unions to discuss proposals to improve customer service, including making Overground staff more visible at stations, providing assistance where most needed, and updating the process for selling tickets.
This will include scrutiny of ticket offices in a station-by-station review, as well as upgrading ticket machines across the network, as TfL and ARL look to cater for the rise of Oyster and contactless ticketing.
Unions however, have already raised concerns over the review, and warned that industrial action could be on the horizon over prospective changes.
Leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association Manuel Cortes said that smart technology "will never be a substitute for the personal service our members provide to passengers".
We will look at the detail of these proposals but we will not allow safety standards to be jeopardised or stations left unstaffed. This is not what passengers want. We will consult with our members to see how they would like our union to respond. However, at this point, we would not rule out industrial action to defend passenger safety.
ARL said it is mulling upping the number of staff it directly employs in permanent roles, and reducing reliance on agencies to cover customer service positions, adding that all stations would continue to be staffed at all times while trains are running.
Arriva Rail London's managing director Will Rogers said the programme will create "a stronger London Overground, with a secure and skilled future for our employees".
Jonathan Fox, TfL’s director of London Rail, said:
The London Overground network has improved enormously over the last decade. We want to continue that trend and make sure that we are continuing to provide a first-class service that meets the needs of today’s customers.
Over the years we have seen significant changes to how customers use stations and pay for travel and this exercise will enable ARL to consider how best to respond to these and make sure the Overground retains its position as one of the best train services in the UK.
However, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said its position was unchanged, despite the pledges from TfL and ARL.
General secretary Mick Cash said he was "deeply concerned" about the proposals, saying they had a "striking similarity" to changes on the London Underground, "which meant wholesale axing of ticket offices and a net loss in safety critical jobs and which sparked a long-running union industrial and political campaign that eventually reversed a sizeable chunk of those cuts".