THE TUBE will keep running through the night at weekends from 2015, in a plan hailed by firms as changing the face of London’s night-time economy.
However, unions threatened strike action after TfL announced alongside the night Tube that it was scrapping ticket office staff.
Mayor Boris Johnson said London will be “a city fit for the 21st century” with at least four trains an hour on the Victoria, Piccadilly, Central, Jubilee and Northern lines, with a view to opening more of the network overnight in years to come.
“It’s very very important in a global economy to have transport to enable passengers to travel at any hour of the day or night,” he said.
Johnson said he is “very hopeful that staff will value the massive benefit of what we are doing for London”, claiming that eventually the 24-hour Tube service will require more staff than the current schedule.
The announcement yesterday came with the news that a net 750 job losses are planned as the Underground shuts ticket offices to save £50m a year, though TfL insisted all stations will be staffed when trains are running.
“Throwing in the plan for night time operation at the weekends is just a smokescreen to try and camouflage the real issue which is a savage cuts to jobs, access and safety,” said RMT boss Bob Crow, adding that the union will now ballot members for strike action.
Johnson’s 2008 mayoral manifesto pledged to halt ticket office closures.
But the 24-hour Tube plan was welcomed by business groups including the CBI, London First and the New West End Company yesterday.
“The night-time economy plays an important role in the overall economic success of London and extension of the running time of the Tube will only serve to give this important area a further boost,” said Colin Stanbridge at the London Chamber of Commerce.
“For our members in particular, it will lead to more opportunities to attract customers and do business, but also make it easier for staff working late nights or early mornings to get to and from work.”
DOWN THE TUBES
The Tube will run a regular all-night services for the first time in its history from 2015, initially on Friday and Saturday nights on five lines: Piccadilly, Victoria, Jubilee, Central and the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line.
Transport for London has looked at late night services many times in recent years. In 2005, it said there was too much overnight engineering work needed on the network to bother, and decided against it again in 2008.
TfL runs a sponsored all-night service on new year’s eve, and experimented with later operating hours during the 2012 Olympics, ensuring spectators could get home after late-night events. It said in January that it planned to run weekend services until 2am from 2015, but appears to have gone one better yesterday.
Boris Johnson pledged in his 2008 manifesto to look at extending the Tube’s operating hours. He also promised to fight cuts to Underground ticket office staff.
Johnson’s other ambition for the Tube is driverless trains. He has promised that he will not sign off any new orders for “old-fashioned” rolling stock with cabs for drivers. The Mayor says the network can be run like the Docklands Light Railway, with onboard staff on automated trains.
London will join a handful of global cities that keep their metros running through the night – though it will be the only one trying to adapt a network built in Victorian times. New York runs its Metro all night, and Copenhagen opened its service in 2002.