Next generation London Underground trains will be “driverless” Mayor Boris Johnson and rail bosses have announced. Unions called the move “lethal and cash driven nonsense” that will cost jobs.
Images of the new tube’s futuristic design, which is set to feature walk through carriages and air conditioning, were unveiled by the Mayor on Thursday.
The modernized tubes are expected to begin servicing Londoners in 2022. While they have been designed to operate on a purely automated basis, TfL say they would initially be manned by drivers.
When TfL’s older tube fleet has been entirely replaced by their modern counterparts, the newly designed trains will begin running on a driverless basis with a staff member on board.
The vanguard tubes will be introduced initially on London’s Piccadilly line, and subsequently on the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines.
However, the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) expressed grave concerns on Thursday, claiming the introduction of driverless trains in the UK could result in job losses, dangerous health and safety flaws and poor passenger service.
“RMT has made it clear repeatedly that any moves towards the lethal and cash driven nonsense of removing drivers on London Underground would be resisted through the most robust industrial and political campaign of opposition,” said union General Secretary Mick Cash.
TfL say the improved underground trains will cater for London’s rapidly growing population, while supporting the city’s economy. The government transport body also claims the underground line’s development will create new jobs and economic growth in other regions of Britain.
A specially designated TfL team worked with transport design experts PriestmanGoode to balance “functionality and heritage” in the new tubes’ design. Improved features reportedly include enhanced accessibility with easier access from the platform and wider carriage doors.
Boris Johnson said the new “innovative, eye-catching and sleek” trains would will be crucial for the continued overhaul of London Underground.
“The New Tube marks a significant step forward in giving Londoners and visitors the accessible and modern transport service that they expect and deserve. These beautiful, air-cooled machines represent the best of British design and innovation.”
“They will help to keep London and its economy moving in the right direction,” he added.
But a spokesman for transport union Aslef described Johnson’s estimation of having driverless trains in London by the mid-2020s as “fantasy,” accusing the Mayor of making politically motivated promises he couldn’t keep.
Designs for the train were unveiled to the public at The New Tube for London exhibition, which kicked off on Thursday. The exhibition is set to continue until November 16.