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Tube drivers’ union brands Tory politician ‘disgraceful’ over driverless trains proposal

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 07:37 07 May 2020

London Assembly member Keith Prince said using automated trains would make the tube less vulnerable to widespread sick leave.

London Assembly member Keith Prince said using automated trains would make the tube less vulnerable to widespread sick leave.

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London Assembly member Keith Prince said automated trains would give greater resilience against pandemics

Mick Cash, general secretary of London tube drivers' union RMT, said Keith Prince's comments were disgraceful.Mick Cash, general secretary of London tube drivers' union RMT, said Keith Prince's comments were disgraceful.

A union has branded a Havering politician “disgraceful” after he called for a public inquiry into TFL’s “lack of resilience” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keith Prince, Conservative London Assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, said one way to better equip the London underground for emergencies would be to invest in automated trains.

He made the comments as he promised to raise concerns over increasing reports of crowding on buses and trains, despite government not having relaxed lockdown rules.

Mr Prince said he felt people were “bending the rules” because they were frustrated – but added that TFL was already running the “maximum” number of services possible because so many drivers were off work, self-isolating.

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He said: “The problem is almost insoluble. On the tube, British Transport Police officers are carrying out spot checks to make sure people are on essential journeys, but on the buses there’s not much that can be done.

“The argument is that we should never have been in this position in the first place and I think once this is all over, there need to be some very deep questions asked about why the transport has come up lacking when it comes to resilience.

“Part of the problem is that on the tube, to drive a Central Line train, you have to be a Central Line trained driver. You can’t use a Jubilee Line driver because it’s a completely different operating system. Had there been a greater roll-out of automated trains – and a lot of those trains are capable of being driverless – that would have meant there was a lot less reliance on highly-trained, dedicated drivers.

“The mayor has been calling for a full inquiry into what the government’s actions have been. I think it’s only fair and proper that we should do the same into the mayor and TFL.”

RMT, the union which represents tube drivers, said it did not agree with Mr Prince’s comments.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “It’s frankly disgusting that in the midst of this pandemic emergency, the Tories on the GLA are using it as an opportunity to stick the boot into the very transport workers who have put themselves on the line throughout this crisis to keep our NHS staff and other key groups moving around the capital.

“These are ignorant and disgraceful comments that display a complete absence of understanding of how the tube system works. They should be treated with the contempt that they deserve.”


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