BORIS Johnson has announced an all-out push towards automation of the Tube network, pledging that he will never again buy a Tube train that requires a driver.
“It is time for London to learn from other metro networks and get the benefits of automatic train control. It is time to move forward with ‘train captains’ – along the lines of the DLR – with all the efficiency benefits that will bring, and absolutely no loss of safety,” Johnson said at the launch of his transport manifesto in Euston.
He also pledged to take on what he called “hardline union barons” who cause disruption to services.
But despite the bold promise Londoners are unlikely to see any benefit in the short term. Only the Victoria, Jubilee, Central and Waterloo & City lines are capable of handling automatic trains while procurement of new rolling stock that could operate without a driver’s cab will only begin this year. As a result it could be 2022 before truly driverless trains are on the network.
Ken Livingstone’s spokesperson said: “This is a fantasy project. Even Johnson admits that it is unlikely that a single driverless train will be introduced within the next decade.
“Just like the promises he has broken to keep ticket offices open, open the tube an hour later, deliver a no-strike deal and reverse the Blackwall tunnel this will no doubt be dropped if Johnson were ever re-elected.”
Services that rely on “train captains” would still leave the network vulnerable to industrial action, though Johnson says he will lobby government to require at least fifty per cent turnout for strike ballots to be valid.
Meanwhile the row over a third runway at Heathrow has been reignited, with Johnson promising to block development even though the government appears to be warming to the idea to boost the UK’s air capacity.