Published: 20 January, 2017
• ISN’T it tedious to keep reading claims that unions are the root cause of Tube and rail disruptions? Commentators conveniently overlook the valid reasons for these strikes.
It’s easy to suggest that unions are looking after their own interests at the expense of society and businesses, but this doesn’t hold water when the issues at stake are passenger safety and ticket office closures.
The unions are taking huge risks with their credibility, primarily to protect the public, while their opponents try to brainwash everyone into thinking they are acting unreasonably and living in the past.
If common sense were to prevail, then:
• Rail bosses would gracefully admit their misjudgement and listen to the experts rather than their accountants;
• Sadiq Khan would reverse his predecessor’s U-turn and revive a suitable proportion of the Tube ticket offices; and
• Union bashers would start thinking outside the box and accept that unions are the voices of reason in a climate of gratuitous corner-cutting.
I remain optimistic that passenger safety concerns will eventually override the wishes of arrogant rail bosses in the Southern Rail dispute, but I am sickened by the demise of ticket offices. Seasoned commuters often boast that they are independent enough to bypass ticket kiosks, but their stance is insensitive to visitors and the more vulnerable passengers.
Whenever I need help I expect to be able to find signs directing me to a fixed location where I can join an orderly queue for face-to-face human service and with a firm surface to lean on. But Transport for London’s new model is forcing me to play hide-and-seek with roaming staff and to join a scrum to compete for their attention.
Are my expectations really that selfish? Should I simply accept that these practices have been made obsolete by technology and that queueing and talking are so last century? Or am I right in thinking there is nothing clever or progressive about shedding or undermining staff or disorienting loyal customers?
Could 2017 be the year when rail bosses realise that new practices need to co-exist with traditional ones rather than displace them?
Monsell Road, N4